HKTDC's houseware and home textiles fairs set new records not just for textile trends but for safe and economic products for your humble abode.
You are your home from the style of furniture to the make of the sofa's upholstery.
This also holds true in how you view another person's home. Proud homeowner or not, your gut knows which products suit the home owners well and which don't.
But the first International Hong Kong Houseware and Home Textiles Fair organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) elevates this kind of spider sense to a new level.
Held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, the Houseware Fair alone attracted 2,100 exhibitors from 32 countries and regions. Held concurrently with the Houseware Fair was the Home Textiles Fair, the first and largest fair of its kind in Asia. The textiles fair had 240 exhibitors from 12 countries, many of which run supply chains in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and in neighboring countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The new fair served as a venue not only for exhibitors to showcase their products but also for seminars on developing eco-friendly textiles and on procurement trends to help exhibitors and buyers meet new business opportunities.
Talent, Not Factory Workers
According to Elaine Ann, founder and CEO of Hong Kong-based design consultancy Kaizor Innovation, in her lecture on developing products for the Chinese mainland market, the key to innovating home products is knowing your customers inside out.
“Go to people's homes because that is where your products are used. Take out what they have in their bags. It's the strategy that matters, not the hardware,” she tells her audience.
To illustrate her point, Ann asks a European audience member to identify the type of kitchen utensils and products lined before him. The man is able to identify the Western kitchenware, but fails to do so when asked about Asian ones like a Chinese medicine maker and soy bean maker.
The same goes for a Chinese member of the audience who couldn't say what a dishwasher and salad spinner were for. “People invent their own solutions to products not meeting their needs,” she said.
She relates another example about Chinese families moving into a new home. She says that a Chinese family would wait for at least six months after renovating an apartment before moving in because they believe the furniture and wall finishes might be toxic. Ann says the market then needed a product that could test the toxicity of home furniture.
“What the market needs is a strategy in creativity. I'm talking here about the need for design innovators, not just designers,” Ann says.
“What you really need is a change of mindset. Invest in creative talent not on factory workers. Make something that costs US$5 but make it look like it cost US$50.”
A-Fontane Group Ltd International marketing and sales director Quentin Chan espouses a different kind of innovation as he stresses the need for organic cotton and eco-fiber during her lecture at the Home Textiles Fair.
The cotton industry in China is the largest in the world and employs 10 million workers. Unfortunately, cotton production poses health risks to workers and consumers because of pesticides sprayed on cotton for greater yields. “Burning cotton is also very harmful to the environment,” she adds.
The physical cost of producing organic cotton is also higher than consumption and this is where the problem lies. “The eco-fiber supply is very limited and the cost is very high. The total share of organic cotton in the total share of cotton production worldwide is only 0.8%—not even 1%—and that is why we need a cotton initiative program,” Chan says.
Chan clarifies that while using environment-friendly materials is the trend nowadays, it is still not the key factor in capitalizing on a good business opportunity. “What consumers consider most important is still the material, design pattern, and price.
A-Fontane Group Ltd International is part of the Hall of Glamour, a special highlight of the Home Textiles fair, where high-quality textile suppliers put the full range of their products for bedroom, interiors, dining room, and bathroom on display.
Despite the economic crunch in 2008, many manufacturers are on the rebound as demand for cheaper kitchenware and textile products have been steadily on the rise since 2009.
Last year showed great promise for the textile industry with 9.53% investment growth amounting to 270.8 billion yuan, a possible result of the Textile Industry Restructuring and Revitalization Plan signed by the Chinese government in April 2009.
In 2010, the textile industry still faces risks with rising costs of raw material and pressure on China to appreciate the yuan but the general situation is bound to improve, according to China Textile Magazine. With the Chinese spending an estimated 3,000 billion yuan on home improvement this year (a 30% increase, 25% of which is in home textile consumption), there is room for development for China's textile market.
The first quarter of 2010 also paints a rosy picture for the housewares industry as exports for small kitchen appliances have been increasing more than 30%.
According to an HKTDC market research report, cheaper small kitchenware like juicers, coffee makers, and toasters have been selling like hotcakes in the Western market. The ripple effect of the financial crisis had people cooking at home to save money and consumers have turned to China-made housewares because they are “good value for money.”
With cheaper innovative and environment friendly housewares and textile products, we might wake up one day to find that everything in our house is made in China. It might be today—With reports from Ayan Flotildes / Hong Kong
Print ed: 07/10