Trendy Lifestyle Products Take Their Cue From Big Data
Amid the current challenges, companies are taking new approaches in the quest to grow their businesses. Twenty-two webinars held recently as part of Autumn Sourcing Week | ONLINE (ASWO) brought leaders from various industries together to share the latest market intelligence on lifestyle trends that can help companies develop new business opportunities. The seminars included the "Hong Kong Toys Industry Conference - Toys for the Future", "Divulge the Next Era of Home", and the "Hong Kong International Watch Forum".
New toy industry initiatives attract millennials
The "Hong Kong Toys Industry Conference" was jointly organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, the Hong Kong Toys Council and the Toys Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong. Jason Tjiptadi, Research Analyst at Euromonitor International, provided his perspective on the current state of the industry through data analysis. He pointed out that in regions such as Mainland China, India and Indonesia, millennials are now high-income earners who are willing to spend on quality products. They are also tech-savvy, sensation-seeking and environmentally conscious. To attract millennials to spend, multi-platform entertainment and physical/digital crossover toys are the way to go for large toy manufacturers, while small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can explore licensing opportunities, such as the record-breaking box office hit Ejen Ali in Malaysia, to create peripheral products that can help develop their businesses.
Another speaker at the conference was Kenny Sham, Director, Head of Marketing (Hong Kong, Taiwan & Macau), LEGO Group, who also saw millennials as a key target group. He said that ViuTV and Netflix are two of the media channels that have emerged rapidly among kids in Hong Kong. He suggested that small and medium-sized toy makers could try to find local YouTubers to represent their brands as they are very popular with children. Understanding that millennials value shopping experiences, LEGO has incorporated new technologies into its brick-and-mortar stores. For example, customers can swipe their intended purchase over a scanner to see a 3D image of the finished product on the screen, which helps to capture their attention and drive them to make a purchase.
Responding to the rising popularity of environmentally friendly toys, Alain De Rauw, International Sales Director of PlanToys, shared his insights on striking a balance between conservation and profitability. Established in Thailand in 1981, the brand is unique in that it produces wooden toys with no chemicals, uses recycled wood chips and lists the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during production. He remarked that one of PlanToy's business strategies is to develop green and aesthetic designs and communicate the brand's story, which drives customers' word-of-mouth recommendations on platforms such as Instagram to create free marketing. He said that the road to sales is not easy, but he believed that millennials would "buy less, but buy better".
Decoding four houseware trends
Under the current trend of working from home, people have become more concerned about the design and configuration of their homes. Creative Trends Services has been selling books and magazines based on global trend forecasts for many years. Michael Leow, Founder & CEO of the company, presented the fall/winter trends for home products in 2021/22 under four themes: "New Era", mixing old and new styles to build emotional connection and security; "Revive", a vintage style of the 1950s where the colour schemes are vibrant and warm, with the feature of curves; "Dawn", emphasising handmade products with a slightly surrealist style; and "Brute Force", which strives for simplicity with earthy colours and a strong emphasis on tactility.
Hong Kong brand EMOH specialises in furniture inspired by Scandinavian design. Ally Yu, Business Development Manager at EMOH, discussed some of the latest interior design trends under the pandemic. As the work-from-home trend grows, people have greater demand for lighting, storage and soundproofing furniture, as well as more greenery and designs with a reduced environmental impact. In terms of e-commerce, Ms Yu said that brands are beginning to develop online showrooms that allow customers to place orders once they have something in mind. She explained that EMOH is investing in user interface and user experience design capabilities to improve its mobile homepage.
Watch Forum explores impact of digital transformation
The pandemic has had an impact on the performance of the watch industry in many countries. At the "Hong Kong International Watch Forum", co-organised by the HKTDC, the Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association Limited and the Federation of Hong Kong Watch Trades & Industries Limited, industry representatives from France, Germany, Mainland China, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong pointed out the pressures facing the industry, with watch imports and exports in all regions showing a year-on-year decline compared to 2019. Speakers at the conference explored a range of topics including smart watches and the importance of digital transformation to help manufacturers protect their businesses during this challenging period.
A trend observed by the industry in many countries is for people placing more emphasis on their health due to the pandemic, with smart watches incorporating healthcare functions becoming the way forward. Japanese representative Hiroyuki Baba noted that this might lead to a challenge to the market for entry-priced quartz watches. Swiss high-end watch brands, however, are continuing do well. In Japan, for example, Patek Philippe, Omega and Richard Mille all posted a slight increase in sales after June.
The watch industry continues to shift its focus to online platforms. Korean representative Dae-boong Kim noted that the three offline sales giants in Korea - Emart, Lotte Mart and Homeplus - have all been actively developing their online capabilities, while French representative Patrice Besnard noted that "without online platforms, many retailers would be gone". German representative Guido Grohmann said that physical fairs are still difficult to replace and that "the impulse to buy a watch has much to do with being able to show it to someone else".
Regarding the watch industry forecast for the coming year, it was noted that the Mainland China is the only region optimistic about the coming year. Zhang Hong-guang, Director General of the China Horologe Association, explained that the pandemic has been effectively brought under control in the mainland and citizens who were not able to travel had turned to domestic consumption. This has helped to drive up revenue from watch sales. Samuel Lee, Chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Watch Trades & Industries Limited, said the watch market has been volatile since 2015 due to political, currency and global economic issues, advising the industry of a need to build a strong foundation for domestic markets in both Hong Kong and the mainland.
The results of the 37th Hong Kong Watch & Clock Design Competition were announced during the conference. Under the theme of "Persistent Spirit", the Open Group Champion honour went to Benny Tam, sponsored by Wincy Horological Limited, with a design titled "Headwind". Wong Ting-bong, sponsored by Po Fai Precision Ltd/Youngs Watch Company Limited, was the first runner-up with his piece "Parallel Universe". The second runner-up spot went to Lee Tung-chun with his piece "The Filmera". The design theme for the student group was "Beautiful Legend" and the winning entry was "The Adonis Rose", designed by Wong Ka-yan from the School for Higher and Professional Education (SHAPE). First runner-up was designer Liu Shing-kai from the Hong Kong Design Institute, with a design titled "Promise", while the second-runner award went to Chow Hong-man from the Technological & Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong for his entry "Essence".
Organised by the HKTDC, Autumn Sourcing Week | ONLINE showcased the latest products from 11 industries including electronics, houseware, lighting, outdoor lighting, green technology, gifts and premiums, toys, baby products, stationery, eyewear, watches and clocks, providing a one-stop online sourcing platform for SMEs. The online exhibition, which drew to a successful close on 27 November, featured more than 2,600 exhibitors and attracted more than 27,000 buyers from 132 countries and regions to participate.