Foreign exhibitors at the International Home & Housewares Show announced expansion and investment plans, while their U.S. counterparts are dealing with consolidation and market saturation.
China's largest housewares injection molder, Ningbo Lisi Plastic & Rubber Co. Ltd., is adding 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space to its current 2 million-square-foot plant, and will boost its 3,000-strong workforce by 400, before the year is out. The privately owned firm runs 240 high-speed presses and constantly is bringing in new equipment, according to General Manager Sally Jin. Lisi, of Ningbo, also is investing in product development and design and, to that end, is spending $1.2 million to expand its 2,500-item portfolio and launch ``new and unique products,'' Jin said at the show, held March 11-13 in Chicago.
Another, much smaller Ningbo-based injection molder, Yinzhou Xinxin Plastic Factory, wants to double its size within two years and develop more products, sales associate Li Tingcun said. Right now the company employs only 90 and runs 16 presses in a 43,000-square-foot site. About 40 percent of its exports go to Japan, and 15 percent to the U.S.
China's per capita consumption of plastics registers at about 48 pounds, India's at 11 pounds, compared with the U.S. figure of more than 300 pounds. These developing markets can grow quickly, as consumers, especially the young and migrant demographics, increase their use of plastic household products.
Mumbai, India-based Nilkamal Ltd. injection molds plastic furniture, mainly for its domestic market. With six factories and two joint ventures, the firm already claims to be Asia's largest furniture molder. It has announced plans to add another India factory within two years to produce plastic crates and, at the same time, is growing its retail stores business there.
``In our stores, we provide not only products, but also design solutions and interest-free loans,'' said Vinod Warrier, senior general manager for furniture.
A similar scenario is playing out at Bangkok, Thailand-based Plasina Co. Ltd. The family-owned business, which employs 300 and runs 38 presses from 80-750 metric tons, is investing to target consumers at home, said Touchapol Pettaweebuncha, export manager and the owner's son.
``We are going to double the manufacturing size in April in order to serve the local market,'' Pettaweebuncha said.
The firm exports 55 percent of its business, primarily to France.
``In terms of freight cost, China and Vietnam are closer to the U.S. West Coast. We are closer to Europe,'' he said. He noted that the volume of Pasina's U.S. sales has held steady but the percentage has dropped as Pasina grows more quickly in other markets.
``The U.S. market is difficult,'' Pettaweebuncha said. ``The consumer demographics are very complicated. The high-end ones don't like to use plastics, and the lower-end ones focus only on price. We expect better growth in the [Thai] home market.''
Istanbul, Turkey-based Irak Plastik has set its sights on Romania with plans to start manufacturing there in two years. ``That's a strategic location to the [European Union] market,'' export manager Tony Rock said.
Family-owned Irak, with four facilities, is one of the largest injection molders in the Turkish housewares industry, Rock said. The firm's $25 million in sales are evenly divided between exports and the Turkish domestic market, he said.