Exporters attract clients with belt buckles that use multiple finishes and cost-effective types of metal.

Higher prices brought about by rising material costs may be putting a damper on the buying mood, but belt buckle suppliers are finding ways to encourage order placement.

Makers had to increase quotes by at least 5 percent in recent months as metal rates climb. Brass and copper, for instance, are now 15 percent more expensive than a year earlier. Electroplating fees also went up 20 percent during the same period. With outlay anticipated to continue mounting in the months ahead, further price augmentations are likely to be implemented.

To justify such adjustments, companies are boosting product value through the adoption of eye-catching finishes. Guangzhou Haoqijia Hardware Co. Ltd’s latest releases feature black, silver or gray dots painted over the main metallic coating.

For clients that have smaller budgets, manufacturers suggest economical inputs such as zinc alloy plated in gunmetal. The cost of the main material is relatively stable, fluctuating just 2 percent from $2,800 per ton since the beginning of the year. Businesses procure large quantities at a time to get lower rates.

Because of this, zinc alloy models currently dominate shipments in the line. Together with iron designs, they account for 80 percent of exports.

The grades of the alloy are based on the different proportions of zinc, aluminum, copper, magnesium, lead and cadmium. High-end types generally have lower concentrations of the last two elements.

Acrylic and PC styles make up 10 percent of overseas deliveries. They are considered low-end and midrange, and commonly paired with textile belts and sashes. Painting is the usual finishing choice.

The remaining share of sales volume comprises more expensive metal products such as brass, copper, stainless steel and titanium. The first two are employed to create a casual or retro look. Hypoallergenic stainless steel and titanium, on the other hand, are adopted for dress belts made of genuine leather.

Nearly all suppliers source materials from long-term partners in Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces, but a number of large makers purchase from Australia, Taiwan, Japan or South Korea. Imported counterparts can be 50 to 100 percent costlier but are more durable. The majority of makers do not require MSDS from vendors. Instead, they ask for free replacements if defects are found in the batch. Incoming QC for small and midsize companies involves visual and tactile inspections, but large enterprises have laboratories to measure thickness, hardness, and levels of azo, lead and nickel. Samples may be sent to third-party testing institutes on request.

As regards electroplating, only big factories conduct the process in-house. Others subcontract the step. Two techniques are widely used in the country,namely the barrel and rack methods. In the former, the buckles are placed in a cylinder before adding the anode and solution into the container. It is a quick way to coat many pieces, but the layer may not be even for each piece.

Items are hung individually on a frame in rack plating. All are immersed into the bath with the finishing metal. The procedure is more time-consuming and labor-intensive but results in a uniform overlay. Products treated in this manner are therefore $0.15 to $0.30 more expensive.

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