Stay-at-home trend boosts demand for stylish decor

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 July, 2004, 12:00am

Firms stress flexibility with designs and materials to meet needs of customers

Cocooning is the word used to describe the recent trend, seen particularly in the United States, for people spending more time in their homes with family and friends.

According to trendspotters, this is a result of the uncertainty and fear that followed the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

People began to spend money on making their surroundings more comfortable and better equipped.

Manufacturers of home decor items, cookware and tableware have benefited from this new direction, which has also spread to Europe.

In China, meanwhile, increasing affluence is prompting a section of the population to spend money on their homes. As a result, Hong Kong's houseware industry saw a 66 per cent increase in business with the mainland last year.

The lion's share of the market, however, still goes to the United States, which takes just under half of exports, with Europe taking about a fifth.

The Summer Sourcing Show reflects the trend for making homes more stylish and relaxing, showcasing a huge array of items that are practical and decorative.

Lighting is an important aspect of ambience, and Megasii, a company founded two years ago in Hong Kong, has turned it into a fun product, too. Its Graffiti range allows messages to be drawn on the lamps - a great idea for children's bedrooms.

'These lights are made using a technique called rotational moulding, which makes the items hollow. We recently decided to utilise this to make furniture incorporating lights,' director Kam Li said.

These pieces are popular in Europe and Japan, and Magasii is now exporting them to Indonesia and Malaysia.

'At first, Asian consumers didn't accept plastic products because they thought they were cheap, but now they are changing their minds.' Popular colours include orange, blue and white.

Socio Furniture also makes brightly coloured pieces for the home. Managing director Gary Cheng said it was difficult to discern trends these days.

'Our customers all want to have something different to differentiate themselves from their competition,' he said.

Socio designs its own items, but will make adjustments for customers to suit their markets.

Mr Cheng said Americans were cautious on price, while European customers were more focused on style and quality.

'We will change the colour, size or type of materials to suit their markets. That means we have to be flexible to adjust our production line - it's more work for us but we benefit from it.'

The company's furniture, which includes children's ranges, is made from pine wood and rubberwood.

'Original wood finishes are popular at the moment. We have developed the children's range for this niche market - my wife owns a toy company so we were able to identify a similar market. There's a lot of synergy for us there.'

While furniture represents a major financial outlay for the end user, rooms can be given a new look with smaller items.

Small decorative items make great gifts, so Color Maple (HK) is targeting buyers from the gifts and houseware aspects of the fair with its wooden jewellery boxes and statuettes in polyresin.

Company representative Albert Peng said: 'The trend for these statuettes is veering towards abstraction. Also popular are gifts that are classic, such as wooden boxes that can be used for jewellery, keepsakes and collectibles.'

He expected European customers would be particularly attracted by these at the fair.

With the cocooning trend showing no signs of slowing down and the mainland market set to continue booming, manufacturers of all types of home products will continue to thrive, provided they come up with imaginative, quality products.