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Houseware distribution pull to Asia

 Photo: Demand in Asia: glazed cast iron pots.
 Demand in Asia: glazed cast iron pots.
Italian cookware brand Alluflon is cooking up a storm in developing markets and particularly looking to Hong Kong as a distribution base for the Asia-Pacific. Like a number of other European houseware specialists, it's seeing considerably better prospects for growth in Asia than in Europe, where sales are said to have been fading for the past three years.

The Alluflon brand is distributed through major department stores. "Hong Kong is a hub for the whole South East Asian area as well as for Australia and the Philippines," said Cinzia Casagrande, Marketing Manager and Deputy Commercial Director.

Photo: Casagrande: Russia 'logistically difficult.' 
Casagrande: Russia "logistically difficult." 
Emerging markets globally are being picked over for boosting sales, according to Casagrande. One emerging market for the brand's line, Moneta, is Russia, which she described as a "logistically difficult market", because preferences differ markedly from one zone to another. Nevertheless, consistent and lucrative business has been established, said Casagrande.

Recently Alluflon acquired the German Berndes cookware brand which has a Hong Kong unit, creating better opportunities for Asian distribution, such as of the new Monetavera line, featuring an anti-stick ceramic coating and pre-priced at Euros19.9 at retail.

Similarly, for Italian design house Linea Sette, traditional markets in Europe are being increasingly supplemented by the Chinese mainland, Japan and Indonesia. Hong Kong, where it has multi-brand shops, is the platform from which it is easiest to penetrate the Chinese mainland and South-East Asian markets, said the company's representatives.

Photo: Bernabino: weighting towards emerging markets. Photo: Glassware by Zafferano.
Bernabino: weighting towards emerging markets. Glassware by Zafferano.

Design firm Sambonet Paderno Industrie SpA is another company putting greater weight on emerging markets, even though it says its businesses in Germany and France are doing well. Caterina Bernabino, Head of International Retail said new markets include Russia and Gulf states in the Middle East, along with Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Angola. Bernabino said Hong Kong was itself a dynamic market, and developing into an important centre.

"Hong Kong is a very strong financial platform and a launching pad for Asian countries and the Chinese mainland," said Marco Borla, CEO of Fade, the largest importer to Italy of Bohemian crystal and glassware.

The company sells at home, followed by Spain and Greece, but imports its glassware from the Chinese mainland and also Hong Kong, where it has a quality control office. Production takes place in Mainland factories, closely following designs and decorations set up by its Italian head office. Its most recent line, viewed at the Macef International Home Show in Milan, was of Bohemian pots and crystal retailing from Euros60 to Euros130.

Photo: Dining ware from Fade. Photo: Desaler: Mainland still the production centre.
Dining ware from Fade. Desaler: Mainland still the production centre.

Germany-based Kaufgut, distributor of the Hong Kong houseware brand Mike & Kremmel as well as Profi-Cook and Bomann electrical appliances, noted that the Chinese mainland remains the production centre of choice and its markets continue to be Italy, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. "But Hong Kong is a launching pad for the Chinese mainland and South East Asian markets, and above all an important financial platform," Heinz Desaler, Managing Director, added.

Photo: Inspired by Montessori philosophy. Photo: Meucci: underlining Hong Kong.
Inspired by Montessori philosophy. Meucci: underlining Hong Kong.

Flowerssori Furniture, an Italian firm specialising in ecologically-friendly materials for children - inspired by the "student choice" educational philosophy of the Italian Montessori movement - is another firm looking to Hong Kong for business. "Hong Kong is an important hub to operate on the Chinese mainland and in Southeast Asia. In Greater China, approximately 3,000 Montessori schools are established every year," explained Designer and Project Manager, Angelica Meucci.

 Photo: Soft colours from Villa D'Este.
 Soft colours from Villa d'Este.
Also for Villa d'Este Home, a brand distributed by Italy's Galileo SpA, Hong Kong is Asia's main distribution hub said Barbara Vitale, Purchasing and Commercial Director.

Yet, she said a greater proportion of sales are in Eastern Europe, particularly for kitchen and tableware.

European trend for staying home

Predictably, due to the economic uncertainty in Europe, there has been a greater tendency for consumers to stay at home rather than dine out, and that has had a significant effect on sales, as seen at the Macef fair earlier this year.

Nevertheless, Italian styling for home, table and kitchen is still in vogue. According to trade organisation Anima-Fiac economic data, last year saw sales rise 8.9%, but with 70% of products offered sold abroad. Greater China and Middle Eastern emirates provided booming markets for such goods.

However, the Asian trend towards experimentation with different cuisines, as middle-income groups make use of their new affluence, is likely to be a game-changing trend in the houseware industry, both in design and pricing of products, according to Macef show visitors. There was, for example, greater demand for wine glasses and espresso coffee machines.

Photo: Homeware line by Linea Sette. 
Homeware line by Linea Sette. 
Nostalgia and vintage themes constituted the common thread running through all categories of houseware at the Macef show, featuring soft forms, laces, fretworks, classical decorations. White, soft and natural shades emphasised the vintage trend.

The 1950s and 1960s mood was to be seen in glassware: these styles are expressed with bright colours, polka-dots, stripes.

Yet, classic styling was still a best-seller for tableware. Bright colours characterised furniture and accessories.

 Photo: Cups that change colour, from Leonardo.
 Cups that change colour, from Leonardo.
The Italian houseware company Ballarini exports products to more than 50 countries and recently signed a collaboration agreement with Bloomingdale's of the US. The company reported particularly satisfactory markets in Russia and the Middle East, while expanding in India and China.

Ballarini's ecologically-motivated Greenline collection is now being marketed on the Chinese mainland, where the demand for green opportunities is expected to grow fast, appealing to Mainland status and lifestyle choices.

For Merito, the Italian brand distributor of ASA Selection, Koziol, Leonardo, Goebel, Blomus, Drescher and ppd German brands, emerging markets are providing the largest demand pull, including Russia, Middle Eastern emirates, China and a number of Eastern Europe countries like Poland, Ukraine and Romania. The company said US demand is improving.

At Macef, Leonardo's newest item was a glass cup that changes colour whenever a warm liquid is poured in and is priced at between Euros12.9 and Euros19.50.

from special correspondents Cristina Bellavista and
Clara Dodino, Milan

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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