All eyes on Hong Kong for premier exhibition

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 April, 2008, 12:00am

The annual Hong Kong Gifts and Premium Fair continues to be a highly significant event for the 23rd year running. It has attracted more than 3,900 exhibitors from about 40 countries this year.

For manufacturers of gifts and premium products in particular, the fair, organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) in co-operation with The Hong Kong Exporters' Association, is one of the most exciting events in their calendar. It is an outstanding opportunity to meet existing and prospective customers from around the globe.

Exhibitor Polyconcept is a member of the Polyconcept Group, which is a global leader in the promotional products industry with sales of more than US$1 billion last year.

Polyconcept has a long history in Hong Kong and is familiar with the fair.

According to Koos Blijdorp, the chief executive of Polyconcept Far East, this year the group will be represented by three of its subsidiaries.

These are: PF Concept, one of the largest promotional products suppliers in Europe; Intermed Asia, the company best known for its Magic Cube range of products and for its exclusive rights to distribute the Rubik's Cube in the promotional products industry; and Greenland Watch, which offers an extensive collection of watches and value-sourcing capabilities to brands and retail chains worldwide.

The last week of April is always an exciting period, according to Mr Blijdorp.

'The Gifts and Premium Fair turns Hong Kong into the epicentre of our industry,' he said.

'It creates an excellent environment to meet our existing and prospective customers from around the globe.'

To capitalise on this, Polyconcept has organised internal and external seminars to update its overseas visitors about recent developments on the supply side, and new laws and regulations.

These include the upcoming requirements in Europe to comply with new European Union legislation designed to protect health and the environment.

'[With] so many of our customers in town, [we] host events with a more relaxing character, like the PF Concept party, which has become a well-known event during the fair,' Mr Blijdorp said.

On a smaller scale, Intermed organises a dinner cruise on Victoria Harbour for its customers and agents, while dinners and small-scale meetings are scheduled with customers, vendors and licensors.

'The fact that Hong Kong will be, for one week, the centre of our industry is also demonstrated by the fact that Polyconcept will have [a large number of] its overseas staff from Europe and the United States travelling to Asia to attend the fair,' Mr Blijdorp said.

As an industry leader, Polyconcept has been exhibiting at various HKTDC fairs for many years.

Recent trends which could affect the sourcing and procurement of the company's merchandise range from the revaluation of the yuan to a shortage of labour, increased labour costs and changes in tax legislation in the mainland.

Mr Blijdorp said the high-profile recalls of products in the US last year had put the spotlight on product compliance with prevailing safety, and environmental laws and regulations in the US and Europe.

'Increased awareness of the conditions under which products are being produced - from a social accountability and environmental perspective - [means] that we have to be much more selective in choosing manufacturers we want to work with,' he said. However, with 600 staff in Asia, of which almost 200 were engaged in product and factory compliance audits, manufacturing support and pre-shipment inspections on a daily basis, he said the group was well positioned to face these challenges.

'This is a message we obviously want to convey to our customers ... and what better place to do this than Hong Kong.'

Mr Blijdorp said his group had always been recognised as a design-oriented firm, with about 400 products developed each year.

More than 60 per cent of sales are generated with products under proprietary or licensed brands, such as Slazenger, PGA Tour and Dockers.

This made his organisation less exposed to the enormous price pressure faced by companies which only dealt with open commodity-type products, Mr Blijdorp said. 'With our design studio in Hong Kong, the fair is an excellent opportunity to present these capabilities to our prospective customers,' he said.

Another company, TangleToys, specialises in 'brain toys' and offers a unique twisting noodle called the Tangle.

This successful toy and educational tool is based on a heliocentric sculpture with tubular 90-degree curves and was created by TangleToys chief executive Richard Zawitz in the mid-1960s.

'We have sold 100 million versions of this original device, [including] to therapy houses and fast-food chains as brain tools to enable more efficient learning or fidget-friendly toys, lamps, furniture or pens,' Mr Zawitz said.

Tangle's market stretches far, ranging from sporting use to educational, therapy, hardware, licensing and inflatable opportunities.

TangleToys is also a long-term exhibitor at the trade fair.

'We've been exhibiting at the fair for about 10 years - it is one of the best trade shows for gifts and premiums anywhere in the world,' Mr Zawitz said.

He said that, as with any trade show, exposure was key, above and beyond generating orders and business. 'Great trade shows are all about showing your products to as wide an audience as possible. This is one of my favourite shows in the world, because of the amount of people who come,' Mr Zawitz said.

Key attributes ranged from its world-class, worldwide buyers to the booths provided in the fair's prestigious Hall of Fine Designs.

'I love [the Hall of Fine Designs] because it's a gorgeous booth and a beautiful space ... [so] we get the kind of attention that I believe Tangle deserves,' he said.

The company also chooses to exhibit the majority of its products and opportunities on offer at this fair.

The Tangle was often used to promote other products as a 3D advertising medium so it had a wide appeal for buyers attending the fair, Mr Zawitz said.