Match industry seeks its place in the sun
The worsening situation urged Hu to find a way out.
"I talked with peers in the industry and finally realized we should integrate resources and play the game together." The director proposed to choose some trusted factories, especially in the less-developed regions, to be the production bases for brand holders in a bid to create space for factories' business and to support the brand development.
This mode has worked well. The 0.7-hectare production base of Hangzhou Match Factory in Chun'an county of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province was pulled down in 2018, giving way to the construction of Hangzhou-Huangshan Railway, but the brand has been well preserved as Hu has cooperated with other factories in areas such as Henan and Fujian provinces for match production.
"Instead of practicability, we are now paying more attention to creativity and innovation of our products," said Hu. His team cooperated with designers from the China Academy of Art to polish the cultural and artistic style of match boxes and packages.
"We have developed more than 50 series, presenting the landmark scenery and culture of Zhejiang such as the 10 views of West Lake, the Tale of White Snake and the Butterfly Lovers on match boxes," the director said. In addition, high-end boxes made of metal, mainly for collection, are another business concentration for today's Hangzhou Match Factory.
Match boxes are also spaces for advertisements. Hu said that in recent years, estate agents are more than willing to advertise on their products, a much-needed booster to the factory's business.
Two thirds of the factory's products are sold abroad, especially in Europe and the US. The annual export value exceeds 100 million yuan ($14.01 million), according to Hu.
Hangzhou lies in the heart of China's e-commerce sector and many local enterprises have jumped on the bandwagon. Hu's factory was no exception. As early as in 2006, Hu turned to e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba for business expansion. The director said today, the annual online sales value of the factory's products is more than 10 million yuan.
About the future of his match business, the 58-year-old "match man" still has a grand vision. He plans to open a museum showcasing the history of Hangzhou Match Factory and organize a group to promote the match culture at the grassroots.
"The factory now has a history of 110 years. I hope it to be well developed and promoted for another century," Hu said with expectation.
Qin Jirong in Hangzhou contributed to the story.
Hu Wuyin with the first match box produced by his company more than 100 years ago in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province [Photo/IC]