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Brazil House Fair Proves Learning Experience for Chinese Exhibitors

A number of Chinese exhibitors failed to make the maximum impact at the recent House and Gift Fair South America, perhaps indicating that some mainland businesses need to research their target foreign markets a little more thoroughly.

Photo: Far from cosy: Trevisan teapots.
Far from cosy: Trevisan teapots.
Photo: Far from cosy: Trevisan teapots.
Far from cosy: Trevisan teapots.

There was something for everyone at the House and Gift Fair South America, with the event celebrating its 25th year by taking more than 100,000 square metres of exhibition space. This officially made it the biggest gift fair in Latin America and the fifth biggest in the world – at least according to the organisers.

For the boys, there were Batman lamps and model planes: for the girls, there were mirrors, chandeliers, and lots of flowers. For the traditionalists, red phone boxes: for the innovative, two-legged orange horses. For the 108 Chinese companies gathered together by CIEC Overseas Exhibitions, there were an estimated 110,000 visitors and 1,300 exhibitors from 15 countries to sell to.

At the front of the hall, facing the South entrance, on Avenues one and two, could be found Brazil's largest furnishing suppliers, complete with fabulously ornate stands presenting a dazzling variety of household products and gifts. It was here that the visitors largely stayed.

On a large stand fronting the entrance, China Shopping (Sao Paulo, Brazil) hosted an interesting display of distressed and restyled chests of drawers and novelty tables, all with collage decoration in the form of old postcards and posters. Wooden boxes styled as 19th Century book covers continued the theme, which was also evident on clocks and metal garden tables. Similarly striking were the wire construction garden tables, plant holders and stools.

Explaining the company's positioning, Michel, one of the staff manning the stand, said: "We have been in business for a very long time in Brazil. We have an exclusive line and really good prices and we can accommodate customers with items at the high and low end of the price range."

Close by, the Brazilian Trade Centre also had its share of highly coloured ceramics and sparkling glassware and chandeliers. There was a preponderance, too, of organic materials: baskets, boxes, trays and caskets in naturally coloured wood and rattan; tall, narrow vases woven in bamboo; and pierced wooden screens. Wooden chests with leather strapping and brass buckles fronted the aisles, while its range of kitchenware – cutlery trays, chopping boards, salt and pepper shakers, bread bins and cheese boards, all in solid bamboo – also attracted admiring attention.

Asia Connection (Brazil) had a particularly imaginative presentation, complete with glamorous mosaic glazed vases and mirrors in bright yellow, purple, royal blue and turquoise. Matched with bleached wood and marine concepts, the stand was attractively themed around a cottage-by-the-sea motif.

Lucatti (Brazil) had on offer its trademark Grecian urns, Italianate figurines in porcelain and bronze, Egyptian inlaid or marble topped tables, with barley sugar legs and gold trim, as well as Napoleonic horsemen and Roman legionnaires. Its range of coloured glassware included coral red vases in organic forms.

Cristina Azevedo, head buyer with Camicado, a major Brazilian household goods supplier, believed the House and Gift Fair retains considerable relevance within the market. She said: "I can see just how the products and suppliers, as well as the quality and the displays themselves, are evolving."

If there was any trend to be discerned at this massive event, it came in the almost fantastical display of spectacular wealth – silver and gold, mirrors and chandeliers. For Frontier (Sao Paulo) it was an Aladdin's cave of gold and diamonds, dripping chandeliers, metre-high golden candlesticks and glittering chalices. Its outdoor banquettes came in gold and silver, with two-metre high mirrors backing a silver tray filled with bottles of champagne.

Estambul Tapetes, courtesy of Brazil's Istanbul Carpets, was also heavily inlaid with gold, silver and precious stones, while an ornate golden table came laden with vessels, servers, picture frames and elephant figurines. All of the consumer trophies were aptly reflected in the gold-framed mirrors on the wall.

Decorvision (Brazil) stayed with silver, and mirror tables inlaid with diamante, all surrounded with lush green ferns and white orchids. This, according to the company, was a journey into a fabulously opulent Arabian lost kingdom.

So how refreshing to visit instead a typically teenage bedroom, the latest offering from Brazil's Urban. The company's warehouse-style display space – rusty iron framework and a roof of corrugated aluminium sheeting – was hung with brand signs, including Pink, Loft NY, Golden Years, Coca-Cola and the Batman logo. Here colour was intense – even the black and white was cranked up to 11. It's singular range was also truly striking: scent bottles, jewellery boxes and filigree trays in powder blue or pink, ceramic skulls in mustard yellow or vermilion red; a roomful of Coca-Cola posters, Coca-Cola cans and bottles concealing CD players; anglepoise lamps, cuckoo clocks, and for the morose teenager, black chairs, black sofas, black cushions and black chandeliers. These were all accompanied by Batman merchandise covered clocks, diaries, teacups, beanbags, mirrors, stools, headphones, alarm clocks, mugs and shot glasses.

Photo: Striking equine imagery from Goodsbr.
Striking equine imagery from Goodsbr.
Photo: Striking equine imagery from Goodsbr.
Striking equine imagery from Goodsbr.
Photo: Asia Connection: Chinese goods for South America.
Asia Connection: Chinese goods for South America.
Photo: Asia Connection: Chinese goods for South America.
Asia Connection: Chinese goods for South America.

Similarly playful but more girlish, Porto Alegre's Trevisan Concept embraced vivid multi-coloured floral patterns to style tables, picture frames, cushion covers and storage chests. Teapots came in the form of cats, butterflies and strawberries. Chandeliers here were amethyst, amber and ruby, and in miniature – for the bedroom rather than the ballroom. Giraffes and elephants were in turquoise and gold, dogs were orange velvet, and frogs were yellow porcelain.

Explaining the company's unusual philosophy, Fernanda Viegas, Trevisan Concept's Buyer, said: "We like to say we offer more than gifts and ideas to our clients. We sell emotions. That is why our logo is a heart.

"We develop a lot of our own designs. That also means the customer does not have to wait months for shipping from overseas as we have all our new items in stock for express delivery."

Distinctly different were the fruity and floral compact furniture designs of Brazil's Phorman. Citing the spur to its creativity, Tarciano Olian, the company's Co-founder, said: "We were inspired by the 1950s and 1970s. The Bilros (Bobbin) line of tables, bookcases and wardrobes is actually based on the designs of the church lace-makers who came to Brazil from the Azores."

At the far end of the main exhibition space, in Avenues 10 and 11, by the closed Northern entrance, was where more than 100 Chinese exhibitors were grouped together. They offered a vast array of products, ranging from furniture, gifts and lighting to shoes, kitchenware, air fresheners, hair dryers, switchblades, batteries and umbrellas. Unlike the highly designed stands created in the main House and Gift area, these stands were more functional than decorative. Overall, CIEC has been bringing groups of mainland exhibitors to the show since 2001.

Jessie of Shantou-based Heng Long Plastic was one of the more experienced exhibitors attending this event. She said: "My company has attended several times and we have customers here in Brazil. We exhibit at the Canton Fair and the Hong Kong Fair, but not every company can come to China. We want to seize every chance."

Heng Long Plastic manufactures a wide selection of airtight food containers, cooler boxes, canisters, oil bottles and other household products. Commenting on her experience this year, Jessie said: "Our position here is not ideal. It is the first day, and the appearance of these booths is not as well-designed as those in the main part of the show. But I have taken my brochures around the kitchen goods exhibitors, and invited them to visit us here."

That was a wise move for very few of the 110,000 visitors made the journey to the far end of the pavilions where several furniture companies from China were exhibiting. Zhongshan Zhuorui Furniture (ZR) has no Brazilian customers and had not visited the event before, but remained optimistic at the event. Mr Fung, the company's Foreign Trade Director, said: "We sell very well in China, as well as in Asia and Canada, but not yet in South America."

Assessing the overall structure of the expo, one visitor said: "The front end of the show is well designed, while at the back everything is more simple. It's a different way of doing business. On the last afternoon it will be very crowded because the exhibitors will sell off their stock very cheaply. Everybody in the show knows that will happen."

By the afternoon of the third day the area remained quiet. Heng Long's Jessie, though, was busy with a potential customer. She said: "Yes, it is better than the first day. That was a potential customer – but for now we are just talking."

Fung of ZR was less positive, saying: "At the other end of the hall it is a fair – here it is like a market. We spend four days here and four days on the plane. It is a waste of time."

Haily Chan of Coolchef (Jieyang Fengxing Stainless Steel) said: "I am disappointed in the fair. We are a manufacturer and we want to promote our goods and start some communication. I am surprised that some people are coming here to buy products from our booths. We are not selling retail and these are not our target customers."

It seems that for the Brazilian exhibitors and buyers, the show was primarily about design, style, presentation and imagination. Future Chinese exhibitors should be aware of that focus and plan their presence accordingly.

Photo: Turquoise toiletries from Urban Brazil.
Turquoise toiletries from Urban Brazil.
Photo: Turquoise toiletries from Urban Brazil.
Turquoise toiletries from Urban Brazil.

The Semana de Casa – House Week – was held at the Expo Centre Norte in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 13-18 August. The event incorporated the House and Gift Fair, the Christmas Fair and the Textile House Fair.

John Haigh, Special Correspondent, Sao Paulo

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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