Korea's Top Exporters - (20); Sees Corp.'s Ski Gloves Lead World's Winter Sport Fashion
Though Kim Joo-in, president of Sees Corp., a ski glove manufacturing company, is not one to boast, he'll brag about one thing. If one never skied with his ski gloves, he or she is no expert.
In fact, he practically guarantees that most of the athletes participating in top ski competitions, including the recent 4th Asian Winter Games held in Kangwon-do, probably wiped their brows with Sees gloves after a major race.
But don't expect to recognize the company name. The number one producer of OEM (original equipment manufacturer), most of Sees' products sell under more familiar names such as Reusch, Kombi, Gordini, Invicta, Nordica and Salomon. Sees currently has OEM deals with 11 top brand companies out of world's 13.
``We've been around this business so long, there's almost no competition in the industry,'' Kim said during an interview with The Korea Times.
Considering the size of the market, keeping top manufacturer position is no small feat. The world buys up to 10 million pairs of gloves every year and Sees alone is responsible for 2 million, making up for a 22-percent world market share. Close behind are Sees' two major competitors Taiwan's Palace and Canada's Atlas.
Last year, Sees reaped $18 million in overseas sales, exporting to some 20 countries. This year, it expects the total to reach $20 million.
There's no doubt that a major success factor is the company's 24 years of experience in producing only ski gloves. ``Whereas other companies tend to imitate chaebol corporations producing one product and then another, we dug just one hole -- on building our expertise,'' Kim said in his office in Songnam.
But he would never argue that ``building that expertise'' was easy.
The company, established in 1970, was a wig business. Back then wigs were one f Korea's top 10 exports and at one point Sees was even exporting $1 million worth of products.
But the business began to dwindle in the mid-70's and the company turned to sky gloves after Kim heard that American buyers were looking for more competitive products than Japan's, which were deemed too expensive.
``Our first attempt was a disaster. We already had a 30,000 pair order at hand, but we didn't know the first thing about making gloves,'' said Kim, who graduated from the Law College of Seoul National University.
Still, Sees proceeded armed with great will. Sitting on finished leather glove improved the design, someone remarked, so the entire staff dutifully sat on the r finished products for hours. Splashing cold water on them and drying them makes them last longer, another said, so they tried that too. …