Swedish merchandiser Thomas Ostwald reckons that somewhere along the path from design and manufacturing to delivery and sales, the travelling merchandiser risks encountering a private hell. For Mr Ostwald, who runs Oxxo Design, it usually occurs during his twice-yearly business trips to Hong Kong and factories in Guangdong that manufacture the watches and fashion jewellery he markets throughout Scandinavia. Invariably, any Viking spirit that he and his assistants take from Valberg, near Gothenburg, to China's shores soon crumbles and has them yearning for Valhalla. Abandon all hope, ye who enter ... the sample room. 'Sample room operations in Hong Kong and China are like walking through hell,' claimed Mr Ostwald, who has now started using the services of an agent who provides a more organised sample room from business premises in Kwun Tong. 'It's not a task I like to face with all the negotiations, travelling and working,' he said. 'But the business relations are mostly good.' Large concerns may have their own sample room manager to tend to visiting customers and organise what may amount to thousands of items. But Mr Ostwald feels this is given less consideration in the smaller firms he deals with. So to reduce risk when dealing with samples and to create a more heavenly experience for sample rooms, Eva Chan Ching-man and her partner spotted a niche in the market and set up Sam International as a service to companies and buyers. 'They [buyers] have their own design ideas which are very important to them,' said Ms Chan, who also operates on behalf of companies in Germany and Britain. 'It's hard for them to travel and deal with a larger company. We source the products, organise the samples and do quality checks.' Sourcing material such as rhinestone or freshwater pearls at the right price can be challenging and a process which Mr Ostwald said added to his vision of Dante's Inferno whenever he headed for China. Material has to be machined to the designer's specifications and then it's a matter of the factory owners agreeing whether samples should be available in the first place. But when it all goes well ... 'it's like a Christmas Eve', Mr Ostwald said. 'For only one style it takes four to five weeks, but longer for a complete collection.' With Oxxo Design, the international experience starts with early e-mails with factory head offices - or more latterly with an agent - once the concept has left the drawing board. But first, Mr Ostwald bounces ideas off Oxxo jewellery designer Josephine Nilsson, who is working with the firm on a year out from an industrial design course at college. 'Sample making can be the most difficult and trying period, but seeing your work coming together and eventually people wearing your jewellery makes it worthwhile. Samples are important because jewellery is such a tactile thing,' said Ms Nilsson. 'Our products are aimed at women but at the same time they're not too feminine.' 'With samples you have to take risks, otherwise the merchandise will come too late,' said Mr Ostwald, who was in the shoe business before he changed to fashion jewellery 15 years ago. 'With shoes, customers have a chance to get another pair made, but fashionable wares will always be for quick turnover.' Viewing samples is now a less fiery task for Mr Ostwald and Ms Nilsson, who had their autumn collection laid out on display for them in the comfort of Sam International in Kwun Tong recently, with much of the burden of liaising with mainland factories lifted. Some of the merchandise is bound for the Scandinavian women's chain Sister and is aimed at the higher-spending, over-25s market.