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Wednesday, September 28, 2016, 23:19

Startups urged to build retail ‘survival link’

By Feliks Cheang
Startups urged to build retail ‘survival link’
A woman tries out an electric personal transporter at the 2016 Global Sources Electronics fair at the AsiaWorld-Expo in April. Industry experts have called for stronger links between startups and distribution channels to support new enterprises through hard times. (Edmond Tang / China Daily)

Lacking opportunities to access distribution networks is one of the reasons why startups fail, according to an industry insider.

Many startups have access to crowdfunding and retail outlets through online channels, but the bulk of consumer retailing is still carried out at brick-and-mortar shops worldwide, said Ben Wong, head of Global Sources Direct at Global Sources.

“That’s why we’re building that bridge between startups and distribution channels,” he said, referring to the Startup Launchpad — Asia’s biggest consumer electronics startup event — which is integrated with the large-scale sourcing trade shows in October this year.

With rising internet and mobile penetration, e-commerce is the new black in the retail market. However, it makes up only about 10 percent of all consumer retail spending. The rest of consumer retailing is still carried out offline via specialty or big-box retail stores, Wong noted.

According to the US Department of Commerce, the online retail market accounts for nearly 8 percent of total retail sales in the US in the first quarter of this year. A 2015 report by research firm eMarketer last year said China has the largest online retail market, but drew only 15.4 percent of total retail sales last year.

“It’s more difficult for early stage products and new technology to tap into the mass retail market merely through online retail,” said Wong, who aims to connect emerging hardware startups with distributors and retailers through the Startup Launchpad pavilion.

Now in its second year, the pavilion will showcase the largest collection of consumer electronic startups in Asia. With 150 worldwide emerging hardware startups presenting their latest tech products, buyers can discover new products in both phases of the Global Sources Electronics fair — a trade show series at Asia World-Expo in Hong Kong starting from Oct 11.

“The rapid expansion of Startup Launchpad is testament to our commitment to promoting Hong Kong as Asia’s launchpad for innovative products,” said Craig Pepples, Global Sources’ deputy CEO. “It is a key platform for electronic startups seeking effective distribution channels and for buyers to identify the latest innovations and be the first to market with shelf-ready products.”

Exhibitors are looking forward to the platform’s next event as it can facilitate exchanges between companies and distributors.

“Having participated in this show last year, we reconnected with one of the largest consumer electronics distributors in the US and our new products will be sold in more than 500 retail outlets in North America this winter,” said Christian Yan, chief operating officer of Nanoleaf, a green technology company launched with crowdfunding in 2012.

Besides the Startup Launchpad, smart home technology is also expected to shine at the trade shows, as a brand new pavilion, Smart Living, will co-locate with the Mobile Electronic show. It will cover smart security, energy management, entertainment, appliances and gadgets.

The smart home market is rising rapidly. A report by Markets and Markets on May 10 found that the sector is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent between 2016 and 2022, while the Asia-Pacific region will see the largest increase.

In collaboration with Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, the Smart Living Experience Showcase will be a “live” onsite smart home that incorporates an advanced automation system to provide inhabitants with sophisticated monitoring and control over various home devices.

From Oct 11 to 29, Global Sources’ fall trade show will be home to thousands of electronics, gifts and home, and fashion exhibitors showing off their hottest products at more than 8,500 booths. A number of unique experience and demo zones, the Startup Launchpad pavilion and an informative conference program will provide attendees with insights into rapidly accelerating innovation and technologies across the region.

feliks@chinadailyhk.com
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