Houseware companies are optimistic after Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department recorded a 17.6 per cent rise in exports of household products in the first two months of this year. Exhibitors at this year's Hong Kong Trade Development Council's (HKTDC) Hong Kong Houseware Fair are also confident about the recovering market. 'Buyers at overseas international houseware fairs have shown increased interest in the products, which means they foresee that the market is going to recover from the economic downturn soon,' says Donathan Chan, brand manager of exhibitor Loveramics. Asia's largest houseware fair, celebrating its 25th anniversary, is being held from today until Friday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Wan Chai, with more than 2,100 international exhibitors from 32 countries and regions. The HKTDC Hong Kong International Home Textiles Fair, which is a spin-off from the houseware fair, is being held concurrently. The houseware fair features various product zones and new product zones entitled Home Accents, Home Living, Outdoor Living and World of Fine Dining. The aim is to make sourcing easier for buyers. The World of Pet Supplies zone is back once again, showcasing pet-related products and services of more than 100 exhibitors, 43 per cent more than last year. New participating countries are Japan, the Netherlands and the United States. The Hall of Elegance, which displays designer collections and brand names, also has an all-time-high number of exhibitors of 42, up 17 per cent from last year, with local companies, such as Lynns Concepts, Topchoice and Qdo, participating. Pet parades are among special activities, while there will be two seminars: 'Developing the Right Home-living Products for the Chinese Mainland Market' and 'Peclers Paris's Fall/Winter 2011-2012 Trends for Home Inspirations.' A new zone called the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Select has more than 100 exhibitors from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Turkey is the fair's partnering nation this year. The Turkey pavilion features more than 30 exhibitors and designers, with a central display area showcasing internationally renowned Turkish designers' pieces and winning entries in the industrial design competition organised by Istanbul Mineral and Metals Exporters' Association (IMMIB) last year. IMMIB, participating in the fair for the sixth time, aims to promote and export products of Turkish origin and design. 'Hong Kong Houseware Fair is one of the biggest, most effective and efficient international fairs in the kitchenware sector. Many buyers, sellers and distributors are visiting this fair from all over the world. 'We can make new connections to strengthen our existing connections,' says IMMIB representative Tahsin ?ztiryaki. Denise Ng, marketing manager of Green and Associates (HK), a long-time exhibitor, says the fair is internationally well known and reputable, so companies looking for houseware items will certainly attend the event. Local exhibitors also agree that the fair is helpful in promoting local businesses to overseas buyers. 'The HKTDC strongly promotes the local brands, with a large number of local companies participating in the fair,' Chan says. Chan believes that fairs have changed their positioning from places to conduct business deals to a communication platform between companies and potential buyers seeking to acquire information on the latest trends. Apart from gaining exposure at fairs, houseware companies also feel it is necessary to take other measures to increase their brands' exposure. For exhibitor Star Industrial, setting up an online shop is another way to promote itself. Gaining exposure is unquestionably a top priority on a successful brand's list, but if one is setting up a new houseware company, there is more to be done than just getting people to know the company's name or products. 'If someone wants to start an original brand manufacturing company, they have to have the factories to manufacture the products, learn about the retail business and invest in product development,' Chan says. Loveramics was set up in 2004 by Lynns Concepts, an original equipment manufacturer company, and now retails in the United States, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong and the mainland. Jessica Leung, marketing officer of Star Industrial, says that the market for houseware goods is competitive and expanding, so diverting into different target markets is a must. As for upcoming houseware trends, environmentally friendly products are playing a major part. 'People are starting to feel the consequences from global warming, so they are more and more concerned about environmental issues,' Ng says. Houseware products made from biodegradable products, such as used coffee jars and egg shells, are the latest product line from her company. Originally coloured, functional yet trendy products are going to be showcased in Star Industrial's booth at the fair. For Loveramics, colourful and affordable luxury dining products are their main focus. To get free admission badges, trade visitors can download HKTDC FAIRS at iPhone App Store, BlackBerry App World or Android Market, visit hktdc.com/wap/en; or SMS your email address to (852) 6390 0704 (Houseware fair)/(852) 63900706 (Home Textiles fair).