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Hong Kong International Hardware & Home Improvement Fair(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 01,2006)

Building Better Business Opportunities

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Buoyed by the rapidly growing home improvement, do-it-yourself (DIY) and building sectors, the Hong Kong International Hardware and Home Improvement Fair 2005 (October 26-29) played host to 156 exhibitors - a 13% increase over the previous year - and more than 14,300 buyers.

Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), the fair offered a fascinating selection of hardware and home improvement items from exhibitors representing seven countries and regions.

With consumer interest in the home environment increasing, there were also three exciting thematic zones featured to meet buyers' sourcing needs. Sanitary World, which covered bathroom fittings and sanitary ware; Outdoor and Gardening World, which included gardening items and outdoor furniture; and the Décor Zone, which was a premium section for quality decoration products.

Additional product areas included car accessories, cleaning tools and accessories, home furnishing products, safety equipment and supplies, door/window accessories, building materials, hardware and DIY products, and furniture and furniture accessories.

There was also no shortage of useful and unusual items on offer. Instore Products Ltd, for instance, developed, designed and manufactured an integrated box and cart system called Bins-on-Wheels that provides consumers with an easier, more organised way of handling and transporting their shopping purchases.

Another exhibitor, Yamei Blinds Co, showed off a comprehensive range of Venetian, vertical, wooden and roller blinds in addition to woven shades and motorised blind systems.

Meanwhile, Keystone Design Ltd put materials such as tempered glass and umbila wood to good use in producing functional and aesthetic bathroom fixtures.

On the other hand, Kena Sanitary Ware Mfr Co Ltd, which makes steam bathrooms, massage bathtubs, shower rooms, shower panels, shower trays and acrylic bathtubs, exhibited at the fair as a means of extending its product reach globally.

"The fair is a wonderful platform that lets buyers and exhibitors explore business opportunities, exchange market intelligence and establish business contacts," said Anne Chick, TDC senior exhibitions manager.

Chick added that the sector expects a strong boost because of the signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) III between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. The agreement allows almost all Hong Kong-origin products to enter the mainland market tariff-free.

"CEPA III means that more Hong Kong-made products can compete more effectively on the mainland, which has a potential market of 250 million middle-class consumers," she said.

The mainland's fast-growing construction industry is also stimulating demand for both buyers and sellers in the hardware industry.

Of the 62 exhibitors from outside Hong Kong, for example, the largest group of 37 came from the mainland. Taiwan ranked second with 19; Malaysia and Austria each had two, while Japan and Canada had one each.

All of the exhibitors from the mainland were grouped together in a dedicated pavilion. "Their main aim in exhibiting was to explore new overseas markets, and we believe [they] should be able to reach new buyers and yield good results through the exhibition," said China Pavilion section leader and Department of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation of Jiangsu vice director Shen Cailin.

During the first nine months of 2005, Hong Kong's global exports of building materials (including hardware) rose by 12% to US$7,633m. With a 52.1% share, the mainland ranked first in the list of countries and regions importing hardware and building materials from Hong Kong, accounting for US$3,977m, an increase of 12% over the same period last year.

The Chinese mainland also had the single-largest contingent of visitors from outside Hong Kong with 2,584. There was also strong visitor representation from the US, Taiwan, Japan and the UK.

The fair's established reputation as a solid business venue was evident in upbeat comments from buyers and exhibitors.

"We're here to source all sorts of things for our business: doors, windows, flooring and sanitary ware. We are very pleased with the products we've found and intend to follow up on the information and compare costing back home," said managing partner Saurav Chopra of Balance Corp of India.

Growth Master Enterprises Ltd general manager Emma Ho maintained the show was crucial to the Hong Kong exhibitor's business. "We've tried similar events in other places, but we find the buyers in Hong Kong are better - they are looking for quality and innovation, and not just concentrating on price," she said.

Besides conducting business, the fair's value-added programme included seminars and numerous opportunities for networking and information gathering.

"It was a highly successful event and everyone is looking forward to the 2006 event," beamed Chick. It certainly would seem to be an ideal occasion to build better business opportunities.

WRITTEN BY ANDREA PAWLYNA