Survey: 87% Expect Overall Sales to Grow or Remain Steady; Green Products Bring New Opportunities

HONG KONG — Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the 32nd Hong Kong Houseware Fair and the eighth Hong Kong International Home Textiles and Furnishings Fair drew to a successful close yesterday. The two fairs welcomed a total of more than 48,000 buyers from 111 countries and regions, up approximately 2 per cent over last year. More than 29,000 buyers visited the Houseware Fair, while close to 19,000 buyers attended the Home Textiles and Furnishings Fair. Attendance among mature markets such as Australia and Korea, as well as emerging markets including the Chinese mainland, Brazil, Russia, Malaysia and the Philippines saw double-digit percentage growth.

To understand the latest developments related to the houseware market, the HKTDC commissioned an independent on-site survey. Interviewing more than 550 buyers and exhibitors, the survey found that the industry is cautiously optimistic about market prospects, with 36 per cent of the respondents expecting overall sales to grow and 51 per cent expecting sales to remain steady. More than 40 per cent of respondents said the major challenges facing the industry in 2017 are increased operating costs (42 per cent) and price fluctuations of raw materials (40 per cent).

The survey also found that the industry continues to favour Hong Kong as a trading platform, with more than half of the buyers surveyed (54 per cent) expecting an increased volume of products sourced via Hong Kong. Quality (75 per cent) and compliance with safety regulations/standards (73 per cent) were identified as the key competitive advantages of Hong Kong’s houseware industry. Over sixty per cent of the respondents expected the volume of products sold via Hong Kong to increase, up six per cent over last year.

The survey also sought respondents’ views on the growth prospects of various markets. Hong Kong was considered to be among the three most promising traditional markets along with North America and Western Europe; while the Chinese mainland was regarded as the emerging market with the strongest growth prospects.

In terms of product trends, the respondents said eco-friendly products, furniture, kitchenware and gadgets are the product categories with the highest growth potential; while simple designs (45 per cent), trendy designs (30 per cent) and multi-function products (29 per cent) are seen as the most outstanding product styles this year.

To provide a more effective trading experience, the HKTDC organised 128 buying missions comprising more than 7,100 buyers to help exhibitors tap into more markets. Buyers from the ASEAN markets considered promising by the respondents such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore participated in the buying missions, creating more business opportunities for the industry.

– Branded products shine under Houseware Fair’s new “L.I.F.E.” theme

“The central theme of this year’s event was ‘L.I.F.E.’, which stands for four themed zones: Lifestyle, Interior, Feast and Enrich. Products and zones were organised according to relevant themes to facilitate buyer sourcing,” said Benjamin Chau, HKTDC Deputy Executive Director. “To highlight these themes, the HKTDC collaborated for the first time with A+A Design Studio, a well-known Italian trend forecasting agency, to set up four trend forecast displays to unveil the 2018 Spring/Summer design trends, illustrating upcoming business opportunities for exhibitors and buyers.”

Wrzesniak Glassworks from Poland specialises in the art of glassblowing. They exhibited at the Hall of Elegance, where renowned houseware brands were brought together in the Lifestyle themed zone. “The Lifestyle themed zone matched our corporate philosophy as our decorative glassware represents modern lifestyle,” said Barbara Kuszkowska, Marketing Manager of the company. They met with more than 40 potential clients from the Chinese mainland, India, Japan, Malaysia and South America in the first two days of the fair, with a Brazilian buyer showing interest in buying 1,000 pieces of their products.

The premium zone of the Home Textiles and Furnishings Fair “Hall of Glamour” showcased renowned brands. Hong Kong exhibitor J-Tex (H.K.) Co., Ltd. developed their own brand J-Tex, and produces licensed cartoon character bedding items. Benny Leung, Director of the company, said they have participated in the fair for many years and have managed to find new buyers every time. This year they had met with new buyers from the United States, United Arab Emirates, India and Portugal, and some of them were interested in negotiating OEM partnership.

– A springboard for start-ups

Hong Kong is equipped with a number of advantages which make it a nurturing environment for entrepreneurs – including a fair business environment, a sound legal system and a concentration of highly-trained professionals – to help start-ups prepare for future challenges. The Houseware Fair launched a Startup zone this year to allow start-ups to exhibit at the fair at lower cost, making the fair an international springboard for start-ups to connect with overseas buyers and gauge market response to their products.

Hong Kong company Butterfleyez, which launched its brand two years ago, specialises in creative tableware and wall decorations that are lead-free and made with non-toxic glaze, and feature designs that blend the aesthetics of East and West. Exhibiting at the Houseware Fair for the first time, Ray Hau, Creative & Executive Director, and Lorraine Lo, Art & Technical Director of the company, said they had successfully attracted buyers from the catering industry in Europe and the US, and an importer from Guangzhou was expected to place a trial order of 2,500 pieces.

Another start-up, Gao Jiao Technology Co Ltd from Taiwan, participated in the fair to promote their aroma diffusers to overseas markets. Yen-Ni Li, Vice General Manager of the company, said their products were patented and certified in Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, and can purify the air by generating 2.5 million anions per second. The product successfully attracted the interest of buyers from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, who said they plan to make orders. The company is also in negotiation with buyers from Asia and South Africa.

– Green products bring new business opportunities

Growing awareness about environmental protection also means that green designs are increasingly sought after. The on-site survey found that buyers consider eco-friendly products to have the highest growth potential this year – a sentiment echoed at the fair. “As our products are renowned for their good quality, unique designs, fine craftsmanship and eco-friendliness, our exhibitors have received many buyer enquiries and have met with new buyers from Europe, Japan and Korea,” said Abdur Rashid, Deputy Director of Export Promotion Bureau Bangladesh.

Marton Jozsef, Manager of Rezon 200 Kft from Hungary, said they had identified six potential suppliers from the mainland, Hong Kong and Vietnam for green tableware, outdoor furniture and glassware. They expected to place an initial order of US$10,000-20,000 with each new supplier to test the market’s response.

– Indian textiles popular among buyers

India is one of the leading textile exporters in the world. This edition of the Home Textiles and Furnishings Fair featured quality textiles from a number of Indian textiles organisations, which received a lot of attention from buyers. Indian exhibitor Sai Exports brought new embroidery fabrics to showcase at the fair, attracting not only existing customers from Singapore and Taiwan whom they had met at the fair in the last two years, but also new buyers who are planning to place orders for 300 pieces of each design and colour for a selection of decorative cushions.

Buyers Zsuzsi Regmi and Bikky Regmi from Canada said that they had met with eight to ten potential Indian suppliers at the fair. They were particularly interested in organic fabric and trendy designs, and plan to place an initial order of about 1,000 pieces.

In addition, in response to buyer interest in small and frequent orders, the Small Orders zone continued to serve as a convenient platform to source in smaller lots. The zone featured more than 150 showcases with nearly 1,500 products, available in quantities between five and 1,000 pieces. During the fair period, the zone attracted around 19,000 buyers, generating around 13,000 business connections.

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Hong Kong Houseware Fair:
Hong Kong International Home Textiles and Furnishings Fair:
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