The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought profound and rapid changes on homes, businesses and societies across the world – in many cases accelerating trends that were already in place.
As companies take new approaches in the quest to grow their businesses, the recent HKTDC Autumn Sourcing Week | ONLINE (ASWO), organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), featured 22 webinars which brought leaders from various industries together to share the latest market intelligence on lifestyle trends. Seminars included the Hong Kong Toys Industry Conference, a webinar entitled “Divulge the Next Era of Home”, and the Hong Kong International Watch Forum.
Toy industry initiatives draw millennials
“Toys for the Future” was the theme for the Hong Kong Toys Industry Conference, which was jointly organised by the 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, used data analysis to give his view on the current state of the industry. In economies such as Mainland China, India and Indonesia, millennials have become high-income earners willing to spend on quality products, he pointed out. These millennials are also tech-savvy, sensation-seeking and environmentally conscious. To attract spending by such consumers, 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 to create peripheral products that can help develop their businesses.
Kenny Sham, Director, Head of Marketing (Hong Kong, Taiwan & Macao), LEGO Group, told the conference that millennials are a key target group for the company, which has incorporated new technologies into its brick-and-mortar stores as millennials value shopping experiences. For example, customers can swipe their intended purchase over a scanner to see a 3D image of the finished product on the screen, which captures their attention and motivates them to make a purchase. He suggested that SME toy makers could try to find local YouTube influencers to represent their brands as they are very popular with children.
Responding to the rising popularity of environmentally friendly toys, Alain De Rauw, International Sales Director of PlanToys, discussed balancing conservation and profitability. The Thai brand produces wooden toys with no chemicals, uses recycled wood chips and lists the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during production, he said. One business strategy of the company is to develop green and aesthetic designs and communicate the brand’s story, which drives customer recommendations on platforms such as Instagram, creating free marketing. He believed that millennials would “buy less but buy better”.
The work-from-home life focuses attention on home design and configuration, which were in focus at the “Divulge the Next Era of Home” seminar. Michael Leow, Founder & CEO of forecaster Creative Trends Services, 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 the material feel.
At the session, Ally Yu, Business Development Manager at EMOH -- a Hong Kong brand specialising in Scandinavian design-inspired furniture (main picture) -- discussed interior design trends amid the pandemic. The work-from-home trend has brought demand for lighting, storage and soundproofing furniture, as well as more greenery and designs with a reduced environmental impact, she noted. Ms Yu said brands are beginning to develop online showrooms that allow customers to place orders once they have something in mind. EMOH is investing in user interface and user experience design capabilities to improve its mobile user experience.
Digital impact on watches
COVID-19 has impacted 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 that imports and exports in all regions declined year on year in 2020. Conference speakers discussed smart watches and the importance of digital transformation to help manufacturers protect their businesses.
As smart watches incorporating healthcare functions have become a way forward in view of consumers’ increased attention on health, 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 is shifting its focus to online sales platforms. Korean representative Dae-boong Kim noted that the three offline sales giants in Korea – Emart, Lotte Mart and Homeplus – are expanding online capabilities, while French representative Patrice Besnard noted that “without online platforms, many retailers would be gone”. German representative Guido Grohmann said 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”.
On watch industry prospects, attendees noted that Mainland China is the only promising market for the coming year. Zhang Hong-guang, Director General of the China Horologe Association, said the pandemic has been effectively controlled in the mainland but citizens were not able to travel abroad and had turned to domestic consumption. This helped boost watch-sale revenue. Samuel Lee, Chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Watch Trades & Industries Limited, said the watch market had been volatile since 2015 as a result of political, currency and global economic factors, and said the industry needed to build a strong foundation for domestic markets in both Hong Kong and the mainland.
Results of the 37th Hong Kong Watch & Clock Design Competition were announced during the forum. 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 work “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.
HKTDC Autumn Sourcing Week | Online