Ever since we purchased the business we have been talking about going global……and last week we took the first solid steps along this path.
It may seem that 3 years is a long time to get our act together but we really wanted to make sure we undertook this project with as little risk as possible.
So rather than just dropping into China and announcing Tambo Teddies have arrived! we engaged the services of an experienced consultant, Ben Ferguson, and we were very thankful that we did.
Tammy and Alison flew into Guangzhou to spend a week at the Canton Trade Fair and meet with potential customers and suppliers. We were met at the airport by Ben and escorted on the one hour car trip to the hotel in Foshan.
The scale of all things Chinese was quite baffling, there were as many people on the China Southern plane as there are in Tambo and travelling from Guangzhou to Foshan it appeared that one city just blended into the other, perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised as there are 14 million people in Guangzhou and 7 million in Foshan so this doesn’t leave a lot of spare space.
The trade fair itself was similarly scaled; over 1 million square metres of stalls, all paying around $15,000/m2 for their site. Some sections had 3 levels, some five, each section was divided into about fifteen rows with about 30 stalls in each; needless to say there were plenty of people! Our friend Ben expertly guided us through this maze and kept us moving so we covered all the relevant sections.
After two days of making initial contacts, collecting catalogues and generally gaining an understanding of what was available, we spent our time back tracking on the third day and sourcing pricing on the supplies we use.
We have been able to establish sound contacts with skins, stuffing and eye suppliers and are now working towards filling a container to import these items directly. Currently our skins and stuffing are purchased in Australia from distributors who import these items from China. Our skins are all Australian sheepskins which are exported to China for tanning and processing and then bought back into the country and sold. So we will be cutting out the ‘middle man’ and making some significant savings for our business which will help to ensure Tambo Teddies remain competitive, financially viable and sustainable.
We are quite excited about our new stuffing which is a fully recycled product made from plastic bottles. Originally Tambo Teddies were stuffed with wool, however this pretty quickly became unaffordable and a polymer toy filling has been used, this new product is more environmentally friendly it uses less new plastic to be created reducing the amount of energy and natural resources (such as water, petroleum and natural) needed to create virgin plastic and keeps plastic out of landfill.
While in Guangzhou we were able to send out feelers for selling our bears, our products were very admired and we are confident there will be a strong market for Tambo Teddy Bears in China. There is a very wealthy class of people emerging in this country who are seeking unique, exclusive products and Tambo Teddies fit the bill- teddy bears are extremely popular. We are now working towards a few changes with our numbering and packaging to protect our brand and the exclusiveness of each individual bear.
Our trip was a business venture, but we did have a little time to take in a few sights as we travelled for over an hour each day from our hotel to the trade fair.
The traffic was astounding, four to five lanes where merging was a art of its own, and when a car couldn’t merge it appeared to just start its own lane. The city streets were lined with greenery and kept clean by a water truck that pressured cleaned the roads while blasting bright ‘Mr Whippy’ style music to give you warning of its approach. And while the area we stayed was tidy, modern and clean we were a bit horrified by the city smog which was quite soupy some days and we didn’t see the sun or a patch of blue sky all week.
We ate a variety of food at Chinese and western style restaurants, shopped at a Chinese supermarket and had the worst McDonalds ever at the trade fair. And while we enjoyed most of the flavours (Alison more than Tammy) we did wonder where the best cuts of meat ended up as most dishes contained an array of bones; first meal back in Tambo was a steak!
On our last day we did have a few hours to explore a little of Foshan and went to a museum which was a large outdoor complex where locals gather to play cards and mah-jong. There were large statues of warriors and gods as well as huge ancient tiles all very ornate and intricate. An absolute highlight was a traditional lion dance we just happened to stumble across; the young men and boys were amazingly agile and highly skilled in acrobatics, they were able to make the lions come to life and dance in rhythm with the drumming while springing from post to post 2m above the ground.
We were mesmerized, what a great way to top off our China experience!