Inspiration and Opportunites in Vietnam A group of Australians recently visited Ho Chi Minh City to attend LifeStyle Vietnam 2011, a trade fair to showcase the latest local gift and homewares.

The buying mission was organised by the Gift and Homewares Association (GHA) and led by the association’s Marketing and Member Relations Manager, George Lancaster.

“The question heard most often by gifts and homewares suppliers from their retail customers is What’s new? Says George.

“Satisfying retailers’ seemingly unquenchable thirst for new products is a constant challenge, and successful suppliers continually search the world’s markets for new items and ranges.

“This prompted us to organise the mission to Vietnam to introduce a potential source for new products.

“The timing for the mission coincided with the LifeStyle Vietnam show, a four-day event from April 18th to the 21st in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Organised by VIETCRAFT, an association of Vietnamese producers of handicrafts, gifts and homewares, the show featured over 200 manufacturers of wooden, fabric and ceramic gifts and homewares.

“The show is only in its second year and VIETCRAFT has plans to more than double the size of the show in 2012.

“Even with the limited number of exhibitors, however, the 15 member companies in the GHA group found the mission extremely beneficial, in either securing new products or engaging factories for future orders. You can bet they will be returning in 2012, if not before.” George said.

Koen Oosterom is Senior Technical Advisor of the Joint United Nations (UN) Program, Green Production and Trade to Increase Income and Employment Opportunities for the Rural Poor, which was a key participant in LifeStyle Vietnam 2011.

“Viet Nam is gradually revealing its potential as a key supplier of home décor and giftware products to the international markets,” said Koen.

“The Vietnamese handicrafts sector, being mainly export-oriented, is internationally recognized as one of the most competitive emerging markets for bulk supply being second only to China as an exporter of home décor items to the European Union.

“Several hundred crafts exporters with large producer networks through¬out the country are providing employment for 1.35 million people in some 2,000 crafts villages. The rural families engaged in handicraft production, however, are among the country’s poorest.

“The joint program is increasing income and employment opportunities for growers and collectors of raw materials and producers of handicrafts.


“The cultivation and processing of natural raw materials and handicraft production constitute the most important sources of additional income for rural households.

“The UN programme’s approach is to develop better integrated, environmentally sustainable activities in five craft sectors: bamboo and rattan, sericulture and weaving, sea grass, lacquerware and handmade paper.

“In order to be able to reach a higher end of the market, many producers need to upgrade their designs, quality and finishing techniques, and be aware of current design and consumer trends. To help address this challenge, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) two of five UN agencies involved in the programme, and Vietcraft provideda team of designers to help companies develop new sustainable product ranges.

“Sustainable design is about having a holistic view on the complete life-cycle of a product, including everything from design¬ing for energy efficient production and transport to creating recyclable quality products with long durabil¬ity.

“Sustainable design means making products that last longer, to coun¬teract the ‘wear and tear’ culture through timeless design with in¬creased aesthetical, functional and emotional values. These products are often designed to allow the users to feel more connected or to relate more closely to the natural environment." Said Koen.

The joint programme is a collaboration between the Vietnamese government (VIETCRAFT) and five United Nations agencies: the International Trade Centre, the U.N. Industrial Development Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Labour Organization and the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.

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