Dutch designer gets smart with timely innovation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 October, 2011, 12:00am


The legacy of Apple's late boss, Steve Jobs, has spread to the largest trade show on the mainland, with a smart watch-phone emerging as a hot product.

Continuing in the tradition of the great innovator Jobs, Dutch designer Hermen van den Burg launched a portfolio of colourful and sporty smart watch-phones, high-end timepieces with a retail price of about US$350 but with the functions of a smartphone.

The large-screen watch, premiered at the 110th China Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou or Canton Fair at the weekend, allows the user to access e-mails by touching the screen and make and receive calls, capturing the attention of overseas and domestic buyers.

'It will be sold in Hong Kong and the US first and the mainland market later. The procedures to get the product distributed in China are complicated and take time,' Van den Burg said.

Intellectual property protection is a challenging issue not only in China, but also in Europe and Van den Burg said he had fought trademark infringements in court and won.

He opened a showroom next to the Pazhou convention centre in Guangzhou where the Canton Fair is held about six years ago in a bid to break into the robust but competitive mainland consumer market.

He designed the smart watch-phone and developed software in Holland. It is manufactured in a recently opened factory in Longgang, Shenzhen.

At the Canton Fair, Van den Burg cut a distribution deal with Mike James of the Tennessee-based chain store operator, Family Leisure, which sells spas, hot tubs and patio furniture.

Amused at Van den Burg's innovation, James said he was sourcing new and imaginative products to retain shoppers and refresh product lines of the chain stores in eight locations in the Mid-West of the US.

'I sell products people don't want now,' he said of the lacklustre economy and the protracted high unemployment in the US.

'Consumption is solid, but the economy will remain difficult in the next four or five years.'

Since the global financial crisis, Family Leisure stores had laid off almost half its 600 staff and slashed operating expenses, James said, adding that the mainland would remain a top sourcing destination for some products while Vietnam had an edge in wooden products.