The last decade has seen the demise of many leading fashion brands that were unable to survive the massive changes that have shaken the apparel industry.
Even in the best of times, the garment industry is highly competitive and staying in business, let alone maintaining a leadership position is an enviable achievement. One knitter that has done this is South Enterprises Ltd.
South Enterprises was one of Hong Kong’s first knitters. It was founded in 1964, it was the second knitwear supplier in Hong Kong to be certified by Woolmark. Its wool spinning division ranks No.1 on Woolmark’s list. South Enterprises is part of the Winsor Industrial Corporation, a vertically integrated textile supplier, which has its own spinning, weaving, knitting and garment making divisions.
Evolving with the Market
In order to stay in business for more than half a century, one has to continually evolve one’s business model.
“To remain in business you have to keep reinventing yourself,” said Manning Tang, director at South Enterprises Ltd. “The market keeps changing and you have to change with it. Many companies fail because they insist on sticking to the old ways of dong things.”
“The U.S. is a big market but it is very price driven. We are now trying to develop more customers who are not in the price-sensitive zone to balance out our business,” said Manning Tang. South Enterprises is looking to move more into the mid-to better brands where prices are more flexible.
“Yes, there are many big fast fashion retailers, but there are also the smaller, mid-tier brands that are not that price-sensitive and look for more quality workmanship. Our company’s proposition is: we offer quality, we offer our expertise, innovation and sustainability – a combination of these factors in a tailored way for them,” said Ivan Tang.
Focusing on Quality
Good, consistent quality is what differentiates South Enterprises from many other suppliers in the industry.
“One of the biggest advantages that we have is our strict quality control system,” said Manning Tang.
“Most of the European buyers normally don’t have their own final inspection system. Instead, they rely on their suppliers for quality assurance. We have a long history of strict QC standards – in fact, our QC system is stricter than a lot of the brands’ own standards so customers know that what we deliver will meet or exceed their requirements,” said Ivan Tang.
The Importance of Good Market Intelligence
Like many successful companies, South Enterprises understands the importance of good market intelligence and has been an Inside Fashion subscriber for over a decade.
“I read Inside Fashion because it gives me a comprehensive, yet concise summary of what’s happening in the industry. I can stay up to date with what’s happening in global retail markets, find out latest information about competitive sourcing nations, as well as get a future view of the industry,” said Ivan Tang, director and general manager at South Enterprises.
“We’ve subscribed to Inside Fashion for more than 15 years. Our design and merchandising teams also find it very useful,” added Manning Tang]
Investing in Innovation
“We believe innovation is very important. That’s something we will continually invest in,” said Ivan Tang.
There are many suppliers competing for market share. To stay ahead of the game, one has to keep offering new things. South Enterprises continues to invest in design and technical personnel, which helps them to roll out new developments in stitch construction and enhanced styles.
One of the latest developments the company is working on is seamless knitting. “The linking process is the most labor intensive and costly process in knitwear manufacturing. We are working with Shima Seiki to implement new whole garment knitting machines in our factories. We definitely see that automation is the future of the industry,” said Ivan Tang.
With their attention to both technical and design innovation, South Enterprises is set to be a leader for many more decades.