5 Sept 2007
Wooden Wonders(HKTDC Packaging, Vol 02,2007)
It might seem a long road to travel, from metalware to wood, but it is one successfully navigated by Hang Lee Products Mfr Ltd. The 1983-established firm had previously tried its hand at various lines, including kitchen utensils, decorative key chains, stationery items and photo frames.
"While the key chains started to sell very well, orders soon subsided as many more companies started to produce them. Prices plummeted. So, after just a few years working with metal, we began looking elsewhere. It was a radical move to try to specialise in a niche market for better-class wood goods and leave metals altogether," says sales executive Joey Ho.
"We made the production switch in 2000," she adds. "We were still trading in metal goods then, but mostly simply sourcing items like bottle openers, corkscrews and bottle stoppers used in wine sets. We still supply wine sets using metal items."
Despite the newness of the material and a certain lack of experience, Hang Lee started producing boxes for watches and jewellery with great enthusiasm. "I suppose that being new to wooden packaging, we were better able to see how we could forge our own niche," Ho says. "We were determined to produce better boxes than others."
Hang Lee also worked closely with clients, and found it a rewarding and valuable experience. "Our clients were all manufacturers in their own right, and they demanded stylish boxes that approached the standards they themselves employed with their own products," says Ho. "It was a fast learning curve for us."
Noting that Hang Lee is now fully comfortable with wood, Ho says the material is great to work with. "It is a natural material that can be worked in so many different ways and with many different coatings, colours and texture finishes," she elaborates.
The base material is usually medium density fibreboard (MDF), that has a fine, smooth finish. "MDF is very often used in combination with other materials," Ms Ho advises. "For example, compartments in boxes may be lined with leather, velvet or PU, while there may also be gold-plated hinges."
Hang Lee pays attention to detail, she claims, and usually each box is lovingly finished to a high-gloss standard. "Many of the designs are elegant and eminently suitable for holding and displaying such items as watches and jewellery, as well as taking pride of place on an executive's desk," Ho says. "For example, we have attractive cigar boxes suitable for a studio or a lounge of distinction where plastic would be completely out of place."
Apart from cigar boxes, there are boxes with simple or multilevel drawers for jewellery, and boxes for watch-and-pen combinations that also have a space for a diamond, say, as an additional retirement gift.
"We also do boxes with lift-out interiors that can house a further selection of artefacts deeper inside," says Ho. "There are double ring boxes, various boxes that come in sets, and others for clips, cufflinks and tiepins. Finally, we have wood display stands, pen cases, and pen display cases that can house up to 45 pieces on a red velvet backing."
Working in wood has also resulted in Hang Lee tapping the top-end of the market in the gifts sector. "We have a lot of requests from brand name firms for boxes to house high-end products and high-value gift items," says Ho.
"Some clients want see-through boxes, while others want patent leather inlaid into the wood at the top and sides," she adds, noting one very unusual "box" with an "altar-like" appearance. "This order came from a firm in Dubai, and the item is designed to hold gift sets of candles." At times, adds Ho, Hang Lee can also package products for its clients.
"We get orders from all over, and so we cannot say which country forms our major export destination," Ho says. "We make a sample and send it off and see if it attracts business. Thus, we have business worldwide."
Production takes place at the firm's 150-worker factory in Foshan in Guangdong Province on the Chinese mainland. The company attends many fairs in Hong Kong, including all the main gift and jewellery shows. "However, we do not attend overseas events," says Ho.
All in all, for any wood box meant to enhance contents, Hang Lee seems to possess the enthusiasm, dedication and experience to please the most discerning user.
TEXT BY TONY HENDERSON
Hang Lee Products Mfr Ltd