Little Christmas cheer for factories

By Gao Qihui (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-24 09:13
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Currency changes

Little Christmas cheer for factories

If labor and material costs were not enough, the appreciation of the yuan against the United States dollar may be the straw that breaks the back of China's Christmas product manufacturers.

"If the exchange rate appreciates two or three points, I may not accept any orders at all," said Chen.

Huang Shaokuang at Jiaying Arts and Crafts also urged the central government to curb currency appreciation for fear that "exporters may lose confidence to continue in this business".

Frustrated, manufacturers are trying to take control of their own destiny.

To save on costs, Jiaying is planning to use more "economical materials" in its factory, rather than top-class ingredients. It will also make product designs simpler to cut down on labor.

Like other companies, Huang Shaokuang said his is prepared to raise the prices of its products by at least 15 percent in 2011. Quotations will be reset after March in case the yuan appreciates too much, he added.

However, as Chinese manufacturers are low on bargaining power due to the fierce competition, experts say they will eventually have to compromise with foreign buyers.

To improve profits, Yi Xiaozhun, vice-minister of commerce, urged export-oriented factories to innovate with product design and function, as well as increase added value.

Producers of Christmas handicrafts, big and small, have heeded the call and are investing millions into creating new, standout products.

"I spend at least 1 million on developing new designs every year, which has accounted for 5 percent of our total spending some years," said Chen in Shantou.

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As Christmas decorations, ornaments and dolls are seasonal, production lines run for only half a year. The rest of the time, most manufacturers are concentrating on designing and producing samples.

However, handicrafts are easily copied and often pirated by traders who attempt to pass off manufacturers' designs as their own. This is not helped by the fact that, for small and medium-sized firms, buying patents for products can be too expensive.

"Only if we get an order of more than $50,000 for a new product will we apply for a patent," said Huang Shaokuang.

Chen complained that, in most cases, manufacturers are paying for the innovation, but not benefiting from it.