By Andrea Lillo
With half of the world’s population reachable within a five-hour plane ride from this city, last month’s Hong Kong Houseware Fair offered attendees an opportunity to interact with a broad range of international exhibitors. While that may be the case with other Asian shows, the Hong Kong Houseware Fair differentiates itself by concentrating on design and the higher-end market.
“In terms of scale, we can’t compete with other Asian shows,” said Sophia Chong, director, exhibitions, Hong Kong Trade Development Council, told HFN at the show. So it wants to improve the quality of the design and the quality of the buyers, she said. “It’s not just about price—a lot of shows in the region focus on that.”
The Fair also encourages Asian companies to move from OEM to create their own brands and work with retailers directly.
Buyers are “interested in better quality product,” said Paul Rowan, co-founder and vice president, design, Umbra, a fifth-year exhibitor in the show’s Hall of Elegance. “The Chinese are beginning to realize that they can’t just compete on price but design as well and they’re catching up pretty quickly.”
With over 2,100 exhibitors from more than 32 countries and regions, Chong expected the number of attendees of this show to increase over the year before, based on activity from its earlier trade shows. (Attendance numbers for the housewares show were not available at presstime.)
For U.S. manufacturers, the show is an opportunity to meet with existing suppliers—and sometimes may be the only place they see them—as well as find new suppliers or distributors. For others, the show represents a favorable time in the product development cycle. For example, at the show Starfrit USA first saw off-samples of products that it initially discussed with suppliers in Frankfurt at Ambiente and then Chicago at the International Home + Housewares Show, said Juanita Coumbias, international sales and marketing director.
In addition, Starfrit can avoid the inner China travel necessary to see some of its suppliers, as they exhibit here as well, she added.
Troy Anderson, co-founder, FilterStream, agreed. Unless he wants to travel to France, for example, this show is the only way to see one of his larger French retailers, he said. His company was also looking for international distributors, as well as meeting up with current clients. “You want to build an international brand—not just a U.S. one,” he said.
“Though there are a lot of international companies that go to American shows, it’s not like this,” Anderson added. “So many more countries come here.”
Switzerland-based Swiss Diamond exhibited at the show for the first time, as it hoped to find distributors in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
“We need to cover those markets,” said Amir Alon, chief executive officer. “If I open one of those countries, I’m happy.”
Due to the volcanic ash that disrupted air travel from Europe during the show, only half of his products made it and neither of his sales people, he said. He was able to get there because he was already in Asia.
For attendee Evan Dash, principal owner, Innovative Technology, “it’s a thinking and looking show,” a difference for him after spending all day in his booths at the Ambiente and Housewares shows. If anything, “we’ll look for new manufacturing resources; we’re not looking for products here.” As his product is distributed in 30 countries, it also gives him another place to see his international customers. “I may see them in Germany or Chicago but the majority come here.” In addition, walking the show with his Hong Kong-based staff is “invaluable,” he said. “They start to get a sense of what the U.S. market wants and what we don’t want.”