Long-sighted China view

HONG Kong spectacle maker Swank International Manufacturing is benefitting from the soaring yen, as Japanese manufacturers become less price competitive.

The company's factory output was at its highest level ever, according to director and company secretary Samuel Tong.

He said the surge in orders was because of the rise in the yen.

'I believe some of the orders were originally given to Japanese suppliers,' he said.

Swank manufactures, retails, distributes and exports frames, lenses and sunglasses.

Mr Tong said sales began increasing in the first two months of the year.

He said the company had to increase output in its Dongguan factory from 500,000 to between 700,000 and 750,000 frames a year.

Customers who decided to switch to his company would stay with Swank even when the value of yen went down, Mr Tong said.

He said other Hong Kong businesses would reap similar benefits, because United States' buyers where turning more to China as a source of products because of the soaring yen. The US buys about 70 to 80 per cent of the 100 million pairs of spectacles produced annually in Asia, mainly from China, Taiwan and South Korea.

Sales at the company's $8 million super store in Shanghai, the largest optical store on the mainland, had exceeded expectations, he said.

The majority of customers bought spectacles worth 200 yuan (about HK$180), but sales of glasses exceeding 1,000 yuan a pair were not uncommon.

The company planned to open a further 20 to 30 retail outlets this year, each costing between $1 to $2 million.

It has 13 optical shops.

Mr Tong said the company had no plans to turn to shareholders for funds to fuel expansion.

Further retail outlets were planned for Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing and other major cities in China.

Mr Tong said the company would open another super store in Guangzhou if a suitable site were found.

The company is due to announce its 1994 annual results on Friday.