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Rebranded Shanghai Bag Show Disappoints on the International Front

While seemingly doing a fine job of servicing the domestic market, a number of exhibitors attending this year's Shanghai International Bag Show felt it fell somewhat short when it came to attracting many buyers from beyond the mainland.

Photo: Case closed: Domestically-distinguished, the Shanghai Bag Show scores less highly globally. (Shutterstock.com)
Case closed: Domestically-distinguished, the Shanghai Bag Show scores less highly globally.
Photo: Case closed: Domestically-distinguished, the Shanghai Bag Show scores less highly globally. (Shutterstock.com)
Case closed: Domestically-distinguished, the Shanghai Bag Show scores less highly globally.

The former Shanghai International Bags and Leather Goods Handbags Exhibition was this year rebranded as the somewhat less clunky Shanghai International Bag Show. This, however, did not restrict its remit with the 16th edition of the event still covering a wide range of leather items, including small gifts and footwear. Given that, last year, the show attracted 30,000 buyers, with some RMB500 million worth of trade deals being agreed and RMB1.8 billion worth of contracts being signed, it's perhaps understandable that the organisers didn't want to veer too far from their clearly winning formula.

While many exhibitors were old hands at the event, Foshan-based Piu & Ma Luggage was attending for the first time, having previously only participated in European and Japanese expos. The company specialises in aluminium cases and was showcasing a number of special-use products, including camera cases. The company exports about half its output, while also offering an OEM service.

Outlining the company's initial impressions of the event, a member of its sales team said: "So far, the show has been pretty good for us, with quite an impressive number of buyers stopping by our stand over the past two days – maybe because we have quite a prominent location."

Also benefiting from its positioning was Sandy Lisa, a US bag brand exhibiting via its local agent, Zhejiang Newcomer Bags, a company that represents several overseas suppliers and had a number of other stands elsewhere on the showfloor. Operating out of Hangzhou, the company began life as an OEM backpack manufacturer before moving into the representation sector two years ago.

Outlining the company's aspirations, Brand Manager Evan Cheng said: "We are selling into the international bag market for bags and that is going well, but we also want to develop the domestic market for Sandy Lisa. With that in mind, we are on the lookout for suitable retailers, wholesalers and distributors.

"However, although we've got a good spot here, most of the attendees this year seem to be parts suppliers, rather than potential customers. Overall, the Canton Fair is better for international buyers. I think this show is mainly for the domestic trade."

Photo: Looking smart: FYB London’s hi-tech handbag.
Looking smart: FYB London's hi-tech handbag.
Photo: Looking smart: FYB London’s hi-tech handbag.
Looking smart: FYB London's hi-tech handbag.
Photo: Longing for overseas buyers: Long Ying.
Longing for overseas buyers: Long Ying.
Photo: Longing for overseas buyers: Long Ying.
Longing for overseas buyers: Long Ying.

Clearly hoping that might not be the case was FYB London, a company displaying what it claimed was the world's first luxury 'smart' handbag. Its key feature is a fingerprint ID lock on its zip, while it also offers wireless charging via a power pack.

Although the bags are branded with the name of the UK capital, they are actually made in China by Hong Kong-headquartered Cosmopolitan Global Brands. The brand itself is just three years old, but its parent company has been around for 16 years.

Clearly not that impressed with the turnout at the event, Brand Manager Jim Leung said: "There's not really all that many people here, at least not compared with the Asia-Pacific Leather Fair in Hong Kong. Our market is international – China only accounts for 10% of our sales – and this show is not very international."

Arguably far more international was Zhejiang-based Newcomer Bags, a company that has enjoyed robust growth since it began 21 years ago. As with many other Chinese manufacturers, it started out in OEM, before launching its own brand – Newcom, which now makes up about half its sales. It has four factories in China, as well as a recently opened facility in Cambodia.

Detailing its overall strategy, Manager Nancy Zhang said: "We opened the Cambodian factory specifically to deal with the US trade tariff situation. It's a 10,000 sqm facility and has an annual output capacity of about 1.5 million bags. Although the labour costs are lower there, we have found that the productivity is not as good. In fact, the Freight on Board price works out higher than in China. Due to there being no tariffs relating to Cambodia, though, it still works out cheaper overall."

The company, which boasted one of the larger stands at the show, also holds a number of patents including one relating to self-weighing luggage and another for a top-opening suitcase system.

Over in the second exhibition hall, the assembled shoe companies seemed, if anything, less happy than the bag producers. Typical of many was Julie Ye, the Business Manager of Jinjiang Long Ying, a Fujian-based footwear exporter. Making a somewhat blunt assessment, she said: "This is our first and last time at this show. It is very bad – there are no real customers here.

"Overall, the trading climate is very difficult this year – not just for shoes, but for all products. Given our international focus, though, the Canton Trade Fair is really better suited to our business needs."

Founded in Beijing in 1958, Huanqiu is one of China's oldest shoe brands. Now based in Ruian, a city on the southern coast of Zhejiang, it was one of 10 local manufacturers sponsored to attend the event by the municipal government. It specialises in producing tennis shoes and other forms of vulcanized footwear, with the domestic market accounting for 80% of its sales.

Looking to the future, Sales Manager Dave Yang said: "There is really too much competition in China, so we need to focus more on exporting. This show, though, has only been so-so for us, but then we didn't have to pay for our stand."

As well as footwear firms, the second hall also housed the stands of a wide range of industry suppliers. One such company was the Jinjiang-based Dayi Group, the largest textile producer in Fujian province and a manufacturer of circular, woven, mesh, flat-knit and flower jacquard, as well as a number of other fabrics. A materials supplier to a variety of shoe, luggage and clothing producers, it counts Fila and Puma among its current customers.

Looking at the show from a supplier perspective, Chief Operating Officer Luke Chen said: "We go to shows every month and have found this one a little underwhelming. For us, the Canton Trade Fair is much better."

Photo: Huanqiu’s Doctor Who shoe.
Huanqiu's Doctor Who shoe.
Photo: Huanqiu’s Doctor Who shoe.
Huanqiu's Doctor Who shoe.
Photo: Dayi: A supplier of choice to Puma and Fila.
Dayi: A supplier of choice to Puma and Fila.
Photo: Dayi: A supplier of choice to Puma and Fila.
Dayi: A supplier of choice to Puma and Fila.

The Shanghai International Bag Show 2019 took place from 10-12 July at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre.

Chen Rong, Special Correspondent, Shanghai

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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