3 July 2007
Glamorous Gardens(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 07,2007)
|Quanzhou Kaijia Handicraft Article Co Ltd manufactures a wide range of highly colourful products to brighten up the garden|
Back-to-nature is proving a predominant trend in much of today's giftware items, with manufacturers seeking new and different ways to stand out from the crowd in this increasingly competitive sector.
By offering a wide range of highly colourful planters, pots, stakes, stepping stones, ornamental solar lights, bird feeders, mini windmills and wind chimes, one Chinese mainland company is finding a stable niche in supplying cute designs that brighten even the barest of gardens.
"Currently, some 50% of our handicraft business is garden-related decor," says Cathy Dai, general manager of Quanzhou Kaijia Handicraft Article Co Ltd, adding that the company also manufactures a wide range of gift items for the home, including picture frames, mobiles, candleholders, name card-holders and Christmas decorations.
"Our own designs, of which we have more than 1,000, account for about 60% of our exports, while OEM orders make up the remainder," she explains.
The 15-year-old company manufactures products worth some US$300,000 per month at its three factories totalling more than 400,000 square metres in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, where it employs up to 300 workers.
"We use a range of materials including wood, stained glass, pewter, metal, polyresin, plastic and paper, all of which are sourced from the mainland," notes Dai. "We have also passed the factory inspection for major buyers such as Target, Wal-Mart, Costco and Sears."
Dai explains that Quanzhou Kaijia Handicraft's most popular items for spring production are its wide range of brightly painted and cutely-themed metal flower pots and planters, which account for more than 20% of its current total business.
"We offer three different metal plant pot sizes and various shapes and sizes of planters," she reveals. "We carry 20-30 different designs, which we change every year."
Available in such vibrant colours as bright red, green, blue, and yellow, this multicoloured range features highly detailed animal and flower themes that are suitable for all ages - for example, a cockerel-design planter comes replete with attached metal cockscomb and protruding beak.
"The most popular items are our animal designs, particularly the rabbit, frog, cat and dog," Dai notes. "Our flower designs are also in high demand, such as the daisy and the sunflower, to which we add decorative features such as ladybirds, bees and dragonflies."
Proving a popular accompaniment to Quanzhou Kaijia Handicraft's pots and planters is its wide range of matching decorated metal garden stakes. "We produce about 40 designs for these products in a range of sizes, which account for approximately 20% of our business," comments Dai, adding that some of the designs incorporate mini windmills or solar lights. The stakes are also available in pretty, stained-glass designs.
Indeed, ornamental solar lights for the garden are another key outdoor decorative item. "We have a wide range of elf-design solar lights in polyresin and plastic, which can store energy and are a perfect match for our elf planters, as well as other solar light themes including lighthouses," she adds.
"The stored solar lights are frequently used to line pathways or accent garden features, and are becoming increasingly popular in all our main markets."
Also in demand are Quanzhou Kaijia Handicraft's range of photo frames in various materials, including polyresin, wood, pewter and metal in plain, textured, silver or gold finishes.
A wooden photo frame with pewter and a bead inlay costs about US$2.50 per piece; large, metal animal-themed planters sell for US$3 each, while a polyresin frog solar light costs US$2.80.
The company's product prices generally range from US$0.50 for a small, metal Christmas ornament to US$5 for a large, garden solar light, for minimum orders of 480 pieces per item with a minimum shipment value of US$4,800 delivered 45-50 days after order confirmation.
Quanzhou Kaijia Handicraft also manufactures a wide and ever-expanding range of paper products, including household decorations, picture frames and nativity scenes.
The company's brightly-coloured paper gift bags, which feature eye-catching designs, frilly tops and embellishments such as paper and cloth flowers and patterns, are particularly attractive to buyers.
These gift bags are not only handy carriers for brands and businesses such as gift and houseware retailers, but are also large and colourful enough to be used as premium items.
As for exports, Dai says: "Our major market is the US, which takes 80% of our business," and adds that Quanzhou Kaijia Handicraft sells direct to large stores such as Garden-ridge as well as distributors, through which it currently supplies such major retailers as Target, Wal-Mart and Costco.
Europe is also an important destination, in particular Germany, Holland and Italy, as well as Asia-Pacific areas including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Dai notes a number of differences in markets when it comes to consumer tastes, acknowledging a US preference for new, highly colourful and unusual designs that have seen the company's solar lights, particularly its lighthouse design, prove very popular.
"In Europe, customers prefer plainer colours and simpler designs, and particularly like our photo frames and small furniture items such as kitchen trolleys and corner stands," Dai adds, saying that the company's 10 designers keep abreast of trends to meet particular market demands.
While Quanzhou Kaijia Handicraft is currently enjoying stable business, with an annual turnover of US$6m in 2006, Dai says that in future the company is hoping to expand its business in the EU, Eastern Europe and Russia.
To do this, she says, the company will continue with its main marketing strategy of exhibiting at Hong Kong's gift fairs in April and October to meet existing and potential buyers.
"At this year's Hong Kong Gifts and Premium Fair in April, we received a lot of interest from European buyers, as well as those from Australia and New Zealand," notes Dai.
She adds that Quanzhou Kaijia Handicraft has enjoyed long-term relationships with many of its customers, and is committed to developing equally long-lasting partnerships with new clients.
"We are able to accept a customer's design and OEM items and are dedicated to providing good quality, excellent service and prompt delivery," Dai assures.
With the European economy on strong ground, and summers getting warmer and warmer every year, the potential for garden decorations should provide even brighter prospects for an essential part of Quanzhou Kaijia Handicraft's innovative business.
TEXT BY SANDRA JENNER
Quanzhou Kaijia Handicraft Article Co Ltd