Fairs give buyers sporting chance

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 October, 2007, 12:00am

October is the golden month for trade fairs in the Pearl River Delta, with many buyers heading in to bag as many deals as possible.

There are three relatively new fairs that are co-organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) and they start today for a four-day run. Making its debut is the Sports Source Asia (SSA), while the Hong Kong International Building Materials & Construction Equipment Fair and Hong Kong International Furniture Fair are both in their second year.

All the events take place at the AsiaWorld-Expo. It may seem odd that the fairs are being held at the same time and place, but Anne Chick, the TDC's senior exhibitions manager, explained: 'We are launching SSA because the TDC and MMI-Munich International Trade Fairs found that, globally, the sports sector in all its aspects is enjoying a period of tremendous growth.

'Traditional sports are moving into new communities, while non-traditional and extreme sports are gaining more adherents every day. Sportswear and leisure wear have converged to create a new fashion market. And it is in Asia that most of the suppliers supporting this dynamic growth are to be found.'

Then there is the practical issue of space. Demand for trade booths is growing faster than the expansion of prime exhibition venues.

'Because October is one of the major sourcing months and there's no space [in the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai], we arranged SSA with the other fairs at AsiaWorld-Expo this month,' she said.

In future, the TDC sees more flexibility for scheduling trade events through the expansion of the Convention and Exhibition Centre, which will be completed in the first half of 2009 and will have 40 per cent additional space capable of holding 1,000 booths.

SSA, as a new event, is inevitably going to attract curiosity and attention. On display will be designer and trendy goods, and parts made by Asian manufacturers at competitive prices.

Manufacturers and representatives of various sports and related merchandise, from equipment and apparel to accessories, will be there to meet sourcing managers for sports brands, volume buyers and licensees from around the world.

Target companies include major retail and speciality stores, department and chain stores, mail order and online companies, importers and exporters, wholesalers and distributors.

Exhibitor Sing Wo Sports specialises in table tennis equipment. Merchandiser Alvin Fung Chun-yuen said his company hoped to get as many new contacts as possible.

'We ... do a lot of business in Europe. Table tennis culture in Germany and Sweden is very strong,' Mr Fung said.

He added that many countries might not have taken to table tennis, but there were many associations dedicated to the sport.

He said that the equipment nowadays was of a very high standard.

'Before, a table tennis bat was just a bat made of plywood. Now a ... bat incorporates designs. Materials such as titanium and carbon fibre are used. A bat has to feel right when you hold it. We are talking about high-end models,' Mr Fung said.

A premium bat can cost a few thousand dollars, Mr Fung said. Sing Wo will display its table tennis blades on which users may fit customised rubber pads. These blades have the company's patented shock absorber and foam cores. The company also produces table tennis tables.

Sing Wo has its own Lion brand, which was developed about 50 years ago. It has a production capacity of 10,000 bats per day and its products are sold around the world.

In recent years, sports and fashion have come together. Sportswear is worn during games and on the street, and many accessories have the insignia of sports organisations or sponsors.

Exhibitor Glamm Holdings, which has under its wings watch manufacturing and marketing company Alfred International, will be displaying its NBA watch - a licensed product.

The company offers clients a one-stop solution, taking care of design, manufacturing, and sales and marketing.

It has succeeded in getting the NBA watch into many markets including South Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.

The company entered the Middle East and the mainland markets this year.

'... penetrating the [mainland] market will take time. We have so far entered Shanghai, Fuzhou, Harbin, Shenyang and Xian, but that's only a very small part of the market,' said Benny Lau, who is the sales and marketing manager.

He said the main reasons the company was taking part in this fair were 'exposure' and 'expansion'.

The company has exhibited in many watch fairs and fashion fairs, but finds the new Sports Source Asia relevant to the image of the NBA watch. The firm will be displaying its products in an American street-style booth, incorporating graffiti and bricks into the setting to highlight the branding of the product.

'The image projected is very colourful. The NBA watch has not long been in the market, so it will be a fresh product for potential buyers,' he said.

The company has its head office in Hong Kong and a wholly owned factory in Shenzhen that employs more than 300 people. It also has representative offices in Shanghai and Australia.

Mainland Headwear Holdings is another exhibitor that provides a one-stop solution to clients.

Corporate communications director Linda Oei Oi-leung said: 'Mainland Headwear not only does OEM [original equipment manufacturing] and ODM [original design manufacturing], it has created its own brand names and private labels - NOP and BOKU. It has expanded its business into retail and distribution.'

NOP products are geared towards women, while BOKU products are for men.

'It is part of business diversification, to progress from OEM and ODM to OBM [own brand manufacturing]. It helps the company expand its business margin,' she said. The company has been licensed by United States retailer Hat World to operate a chain of shops called Lids in Hong Kong and in the mainland.

Internationally famous brand names will be featured on the shelves alongside NOP and BOKU. Mainland Headwear will also display Beijing 2008 Olympic headwear and Fifa headwear.

'We welcome the potential new business, but our main objective [of exhibiting] is to promote the headwear industry and our corporate image, as well as our company's design skills and product development,' Ms Oei said.

The company's annual turnover, as of the end of last year, was HK$700 million. Headquartered in Hong Kong, the firm has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and London and factories in Shenzhen, Panyu and Dongguan.