April 27, 2011
From Counselor Senior Writer Dave Vagnoni, our guest blogger who’s reporting from the land of China …
Find in your mind an image of the busiest ASI Show you can remember. Now imagine a show at least five times bigger, held on three separate floors in giant halls and concourses, with more than 4,070 suppliers – that’s the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair. The grandiose event is billed as the largest of its kind in the world, this year hosting exhibitors from 36 different countries.
Suppliers here are not only trying to sell products, they’re also looking for new and different items themselves. That means buyers include distributors AND suppliers alike. Promotional products are just a part of what’s on display at the Gift Fair. You can find everything from vacuums to electric-powered butterflies to ribbons. The booths, which are largely pre-built for suppliers, range from simple cubicle-like setups to ornate 20-foot high toy castles.
In contrast to an ASI Show, you don’t see much apparel at the Hong Kong Fair. I passed a few Gildan racks, but that was it. Electronics, though, are extremely popular here. While there weren’t any products that wowed me, some of the coolest items were in the tech category. Among a handful of things I hadn’t seen before were colorful 3D cell phone cases, waterproof cell phone pouches and crystal Bluetooth headsets (some pics are below). I also thought the “Push-A-Plant” product was unique for green marketing. With a push of a button, a plant starts growing out of Lego-looking base without needing water for an entire week.
Once again on Wednesday, I shadowed Danielle and Randee from Dard, filming them at their booth, on the show floor and at new product meetings. Buyers from all over the world (Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Nigeria and Mexico, to name a few places) visited Dard’s booth to see patented items. Throughout the day, the product hunt continued. Danielle (who is living on grill cheese sandwiches, Raman noodles and other just-add-water delicacies) brought along with her to the Fair a shopping list from customers. She clearly has a keen eye for design. I’ve noticed Randee on the other hand (who has a much more adventurous palette) seems more impressed by practical items.
Their balance of opinions was evident during a late-day meeting with a China factory representative that showed off 50 or so products. Danielle and Randee made a series of snap judgments, deciding whether a particular item would play well in their product line and in the ad specialty industry. If there was a brand-new product they liked, they asked the factory for exclusivity. In other cases, they had to weigh whether taking on a product would make sense if a competitor has already started ordering large quantities. There were maybe three or four products Danielle and Randee really loved in the stationery line. I’m sworn to secrecy but I suspect they’ll be offered solely by Dard in the near future.
So, to recap, while I didn’t spend 18 hours in the air or get detained by customs agents, Wednesday was still an interesting and exhausting day. I can’t stress enough how massive the Gift Fair is…and how diligent suppliers must be to assure products manufactured in China are stylish, yet socially compliant.
Tomorrow, I’ll be back at the Fair interviewing industry suppliers. Plus, I’ll have an exclusive as I visit with Jeffrey Lam, the chairman of the organizing committee for the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair.
Finally for now, thanks everyone for your emails. Please keep them coming at firstname.lastname@example.org. Although I won’t be buying any designer suits per one person’s advice, (there are pretty big discounts here on clothes) I will be following a suggestion to visit Victoria Peak for a great view of Hong Kong.