Trees take firm root

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2007, 12:00am

Young generation prefer fashionable artificial decorations

Christmas comes but once a year, but there are rich rewards to be reaped from the festive season.

As a manufacturer and exporter of artificial Christmas trees and ornaments, it should be no surprise that Christmas is at the heart of the Holly Christmas Manufactory.

Indeed, marketing director Kelvin Chik said: 'More than 90 per cent of our products are for the Christmas season. However, Easter, Valentine's Day and other seasonal festivals do generate a certain amount of business for the company.'

Today, some 95 per cent of the company's products are exported, with only 5 per cent being kept for local consumption in the Hong Kong market. As with other companies closely connected to festive business, Holly Christmas needs to keep a close eye on development trends.

'We believe that the trends are [geared towards] the younger group,' Mr Chik said. Christmas trees in all shapes and sizes are therefore all the rage. These included 'Christmas trees in different shapes, including upside-down trees, ceiling trees, corner trees and slim trees', he said.

Above all, fashionable trees must be designed to be space sensitive in order to fit the size of living space typically inhabited by the younger generation.

Other hot picks include trees in a host of brilliant colours and shades, from black or pink to red, all with the young, fashion-conscious customer in mind.

'They are pre-lit and pre-decorated. We try to have everything ready before they leave the factory to save young people's time,' Mr Chik said. Running a business that is almost entirely linked to one season is not without its challenges.

'As our business is especially for the Christmas season, the selling period is only about 45 days of the year,' he added. Thus, 'stable quality and delivery on time is very important for our clients'.

However, in his opinion, a shortage of workers on the mainland could make these requirements harder to meet in future and could seriously impact not only the production schedule but also quality control.

As a result, the company's main challenge is to improve the mechanisation in order to reduce worker-related procedures.

'How to reduce risk posed by the appreciation of yuan is also a challenge for us,' Mr Chik said. In this line of business, offers are made 14 months before Christmas.

'This means we start to quote the price in October 2007 for Christmas 2008, but it takes 180 to 270 days from the time we start [making offers] until we receive our payment.'

On the plus side, thanks to reports indicating a reduction in government subsidies for those farming natural Christmas trees, the selling price of natural trees was likely to rise, he said. Reports of hypersensitive reactions to natural trees over the past decade have also had a positive impact on sales of artificial products. As a result, 'we believe that the market for artificial Christmas trees still has room to expand', Mr Chik said.