China suppliers of swimming and diving gear are preparing to seize opportunities in the projected economic rebound and increase their stake in the worldwide market. To shore up competitiveness and cater to a diversified client base, some are already reworking R&D and marketing strategies.
Another improvement on the construction is the placement of the blowholes inside the frame and not under the nose as with older releases. In deeper waters, this minor modification allows divers to pinch their noses and equalize nasopharynx pressure.
Contemporary layouts also suit more facial profiles. The nose bridges of goggles are easily adjusted and may come in several replaceable sizes.
To adapt to a sophisticated market, suppliers are likewise focusing on aesthetics. Some swimming goggles and diving masks come in butterfly and diamond shapes.
More color choices are available for the frames and the lens as well. The latter is sometimes laminated with silvery film for a mirror effect. The gaskets and the straps, meanwhile, are translucent.
In terms of materials, companies are exploring alternatives. Soft hypoallergenic silicone is used for the snorkel mouthpieces and goggle gaskets. This nontoxic and odorless polymer is generally applied to the high-end line, which accounts for about 2 percent of the country'sentire exports.
Compliance with international quality standards is another way for China makers to attract buyers. Most products meet BS 4532 and EN 1972. Obtaining certificates of compliance costs about $250 to $1,000 per series of design.
Materials used in the line also conform to various environmental and safety standards, including the EU's REACH, and are free of six types of phthalates and eight kinds of heavy metal.
Product development among makers is generally done in-house although collaborations with design houses are not uncommon. Shenzhen Fluent Sports Product Co. Ltd, for instance, works with an Italy partner, while a number of suppliers cooperate with academic institutions. The frame, lens, gasket and strap are usually built from outsourced molds.
For lower costs and improved product quality, manufacturers are also strengthening their QC processes to reduce the defect rate. Some are improving customer relationship by setting up quick-response teams to monitor orders and buyer feedback closely.
In addition, enterprises hope to foster competitiveness by shouldering additional costs arising from higher product development expenditure and increases in manufacturing outlay.
Quotes for existing models are typically valid for six months. Upcoming designs will be priced higher due to the increase in R&D investment and patent payments. Most makers, however, intend to limit the difference to under 20 percent.
Goggles and diving masks account 50 and 30 percent, respectively, of China's total output for swimming gear. Nearly all makers can offer both product types. The rest of turnout consists mainly of snorkels, which is available from less than half of the supplier base.
Quotes in the industry are primarily determined by raw materials, which account for 60 percent of total outlay. The other cost drivers are overhead, R&D expenditure and labor expenses.
Priced at $0.50 to $1.50, goggles have ABS frames, and PVC or silicone gasket straps. PC lenses used in this category may come with an anti-fog treatment and can absorb UV rays.
Those at $1.60 to $3 boast of high-impact PC frames and lenses with UV protection, shatter resistance and anti-fog properties.
Some lenses have a silver, gold or rainbow coating. These use molded TPR or silicone gaskets. Some have four alternative nose bridges in S, M, L and XL sizes.
Diving masks, meanwhile, are available in individual packages or included in snorkel sets. At $1 to $3 each, low-end models adopt PC lenses, PVC gaskets and straps and ABS frames.
Going for $3.10 to $7, midrange variants have tempered glass or PC lenses, ABS or PC frames, and TPR or silicone gaskets. The silicone straps are wide and include an adjustable side clip. Some have UV protection and anti-fog treatment.
High-end ones start at $7.10 and may go as high as $100 depending on the number of add-ons such as digital still and video cameras. These share similar features as those of the midrange ones, although imported parts are used. Shenzhen Allwell Sports Products Mfg Co. Ltd, for example, orders PC frames from Germany.
The lenses adopted transmit light better, are shatter-resistant, and have anti-fog and UV features. Models also come with wider straps.
The last category, snorkels, consists mostly of models with PVC bodies. Those quoted at $0.60 to $2 also have PVC mouthpieces. Higher-end versions with silicone mouthpieces are between $2.10 and $30.
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