April 28, 2011
From Counselor Senior Writer Dave Vagnoni, our guest blogger who’s reporting from the land of China …
On an especially hazy day here in Hong Kong, I had breakfast with Danielle and Randee from Dard, along with Ross Beaton of Australia’s Logo-Line. Ross, who’s a former Counselor International Person of the Year, has been trying for days to get me to eat how the locals do (that means eating fish that stare back at you). He’s also been pushing Peking Duck, which is not on my top 10,000 list of things to eat. Sorry, Ross.
As a compromise, I did decide to take baby steps toward enjoying Far East cuisine by sampling authentic Chinese noodles this morning. Now, in America, a similar noodle dish would come with broth and maybe mushrooms. Real Chinese noodles, though, can come with exciting additions like fish balls. I opted for spinach noodles in a broth with some unpronounceable green vegetables, a bit of pork (I think) and, yes, a few of the aforementioned fish balls. While it was, I admit, a tasty dish, I’m still craving Italian food. A burrito doesn’t sound bad either.
After breakfast, I went to a press conference hosted by Jeffrey Lam, the chairman of the Hong Kong Gift Show organizing committee. He had some interesting things to say about pricing, labor and exporting – both in his general remarks and to me in our sit-down interview. He told the audience – a group of about 20 members of the international press – that he expects labor costs in China to increase 10%-15% every year for the near future. He admitted manufacturers in China face serious challenges related to inflation and the rising costs of raw materials.
He also said he anticipates the U.S. dollar will remain unstable and may even “tumble” in years to come, while Chinese currency will hold its value, he believes. Here’s part of my Q&A with Lam from this morning. There will be more to come from this interview online and in Counselor magazine.
Q: How can companies really know that products manufactured in China are safe and compliant?
A: Hong Kong has a very mature testing industry. The international companies are here and the labs are here. They are here to help the industry test their products. All the manufacturers do test their raw materials and also the finished product before shipping. I’m sure they can provide the buyers with the certificate about the safety aspect of the product. You know, this is something that the buyer should ask for and the supplier should supply to buyers. Hong Kong, like the toy industry, works very closely with the U.S. importers and U.S. toy companies on certain safety standards. I know all the toy products made here comply with the U.S. and international regulations.
Besides talking with Lam, I also had the chance to meet with several other show suppliers – some from the industry and some that aren’t. One company I spoke to manufactures those really elegant greeting cards sold in the U.S. by retailer Papyrus. Another company supplies housewares and gift items to Pier One and Bed, Bath & Beyond. A third supplier – from Japan – showed me a bunch of relief-from-the-heat novelties that he hopes to soon introduce to companies in North America. The items were pretty clever and have promotional potential. If you want more details, shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Following the press event, I spent a very educational hour with Jeff Lederer from Prime Line. As he met with a factory contact, I watched him literally take a pitched product and create a design for a new, multi-use pen that I think is really going to do well in the industry. Jeff is also extremely knowledgeable about compliance issues. Our conversation will be part of the video I’m putting together, plus the feature I’ll be writing for Counselor.
As I was walking the streets of Hong Kong today, I realized my time in China is passing quickly. With fondness, I thought I’d type out a few things about China that I’ve found particularly odd, humorous or just plain surprising. Here goes.
OK, back to my trip. Tomorrow, after some early meetings with industry folks, I’ll be headed to Victoria Peak and, if all goes according to plan, I’ll close my Friday with a trip to the night market. Anybody have souvenir requests?