Inaugural event keeps industry in the swim

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2007, 12:00am


With summer just around the corner, many people will soon head to swimming pools and beaches to counter the sweltering heat. Swimwear has to be one of the hottest clothing items in stores at this time of year.

Last month, Global Sources presented its first underwear and swimwear export trade show, attracting more than 180 suppliers to the function. Many expressed excitement at this inaugural event, as it meant new opportunities.

Javis Cheung, general manager of Maidens International, one of the local swimwear suppliers mainly targeting European markets such as Spain and Germany, said that from a manufacturer's perspective, trade shows proved to be the most effective marketing channel.

Ms Cheung started her career with the company as a merchandiser in 2002, helping her clients to source materials from the mainland, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam. Now, she also works closely with the in-house designer to make swimwear products.

The company does not run many advertising campaigns but participates in trade shows to find business opportunities and client referrals. It also uses trade shows to gauge what people expect of its products.

'Our company thinks that large-scale international trade fairs bring in hundreds of thousands of buyers from around the world and they have the real intent to buy if they find what they want,' Ms Cheung said.

According to Global Sources, China is the world's largest exporter of swimwear, which accounts for 70 per cent of global shipments. In 2005, the export billing for the United States reached US$79 million. During trade shows, the company, like many others, would display a series of swimwear samples for potential buyers to choose from. Whether a business deal materialises depends very much on the product's quality, pricing and delivery date.

Like many local manufacturers, the company has set up its production plant in Zhongshan to achieve economy of scale.

But trade shows still have their limitations.

Quite often, these business occasions only enabled the supplier to meet potential buyers, get to know their needs and exchange name cards for follow-ups; the latter part of the negotiations would be dealt with after the initial meeting, Ms Cheung explained.

When asked where the company got its inspiration to create swimwear for European consumers, Ms Cheung said overseas fashion magazines and input from her clients were of most help.

'It gives our designer a better understanding of what the local consumers want,' said Ms Cheung.