Entrepreneur closes gap between manufacturer, retailer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 March, 2005, 12:00am

China is already the largest exporter of home furnishing products to the United States but, by streamlining the supply chain, it can become even more competitive, according to Harvey Lewis Stein.

A 45-year veteran of international manufacturing and product development, Mr Stein plans to help China's manufacturers tap into the US$100 billion-plus home decor and giftware market in the US by cutting out the middleman and streamlining the mind-to-market process.

'We will close the gap between China's manufacturers and North America's retailers. I have been using Chinese manufacturers for some five years and I know they have enormous capabilities with regard to work output and technological know-how, but they are new to the business of international marketing,' Mr Stein said from the Harvey Lewis Designs showroom in Tsim Sha Tsui East, which opened last week.

Chinese manufacturers that chose to link up with his company would gain access to an established customer base and marketing methods that would give their goods the 'widest possible exposure', he added.

US retail stores that stock Mr Stein's products include JC Penney, Target, Kohl's, K-Mart, Safeway and Bed Bath & Beyond.

A designer by trade, Mr Stein became impatient with the traditional supply-chain process, which involves designers, manufacturers, wholesalers, marketers and managers. In response, he formed a partnership with five mainland factories aimed at eliminating the links in the chain between designer and retailer.

Mr Stein's system has resulted in much more competitive prices. His products sell at about a quarter of the price of similar items made by famous international designers, such as those found in the Versace homeware line.

His motto, 'Making fine design affordable', is clearly illustrated in the new showroom. Storage units that would grace any modern home retail for only $250.

'We have created a totally different model of doing business ... Through my marketing arm, the products go straight to the retailer at prices which have made them very popular with the population of North America. I set out to make a luxury product that everyone can afford,' he said.

Mr Stein's company has become a virtual manufacturer, aligning itself with specific factories for specific products, one dealing in silver, one in leather, one in textiles, one in lighting, and so on. It has also appointed an international design team that deals directly with the manufacturers.

Manufacturers sell directly to retailers products tailored to specific needs through a mutually exclusive arrangement. 'They are our only manufacturers, we become their only sales and marketing arm,' Mr Stein said.

Most of his factories are in the Pearl River Delta but the company is expanding north. It already has joint ventures in Shanghai and Qingdao and more are planned. A creative resources centre is soon to open in New York.