How do you differentiate your company from the competition?
We try to differentiate ourselves on all avenues, but in particular, we try to get in tune with everyday consumer issues. We bring our products to focus groups and let people say what they like and don’t like about them, because we have to see consumer problems from their point of view. Research and development are also key for us. We look at function, texture, design and structure from the standpoint of, is that the most functional and usable product?
What special initiatives are you implementing to boost your business?
Line extensions. Microdry now has the eye of the consumer, and continuing to build the brand with innovative items will certainly boost sales. Along with expanding into new categories outside of bath, we’ll also be going into lighting. We’ve also opened a new office in Shanghai with 35 people, which gives us a team at the factory end.
Which of your most recent product launches do you have the highest expectation for?
I think the new pet line will be huge for us, and so will our kitchen line. The kids’ products will be a big win for us at toy retailers, and we’ll go into mass merchants with these products by the end of this year. The lighting area hasn’t seen a lot of innovation, but we have some neat ideas that hopefully will shake this category up.
You regard choosing your manufacturing partners as especially important to your business. What do you look for in selecting manufacturing partners abroad?
I have been sourcing from China for many years. The process we go through takes in several points. First, what is the attitude of the people who work in the factory? Second, does the management team speak good English? Third is location; we try to work with factories not more than two or three hours from a major airport, because our customers visit them. Fourth, we need factories of a decent size because of our mass-merchant customers. Social compliance in terms of how management treats their employees is also a must.
What is your forecast for business for the remainder of 2011? What factors will drive your business for the rest of this year?
Two years ago, we decided to build our own brands. We brought out the Microdry line 18 months ago, and it had a very successful year last year. This year, we will extend the line into towels and pet products, among others, and this will be key to our success this year. I think we’ve got to keep ahead of the game, and we have to have the innovation card. We also need to continue to win on price—not by offering the lowest price, but by having the best value for the money. We also have to continue to offer the full package in marketing and public relations.