News

Keeping tradition going as long as possible

Local printing firms have not given up on the horse-racing calendar despite its waning demand.

The few companies that still design and print these calendars say there is still demand, albeit not as much as before.

Mr Charlton Kwan, 47, owner of Chee Seng International, which prints and supplies horse-racing calendars, says he has seen a drop of about 30 per cent compared to 10 years ago.

But it is still viable to keep the production going, despite its tedious and labour-intensive process.

He says: "There are still people who want to look at the racing dates. It also gives a quick view of the dos and don'ts of the day."

Mr Kwan adds that the horse-racing calendar is popular among the older generation, especially housewives and hawkers.

Demand also comes from companies supplying liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders and hardware, and small and medium enterprises that give away the calendars as corporate gifts.

Another player in the market, Living Calendars, says demand has dropped by an average of 10 per cent a year.

Owner Jeffrey Lau, 51, says: "The younger generation checks the calendar on their mobile phones while the older generation prefers to have a hardcopy at home."

He adds that he will continue to supply the calendars until the day it is no longer economically viable to do so.

"We foresee that in five to 10 years' time, the demand may drop so much that we have to import instead," he says, adding that he estimates there are fewer than five companies producing the horse-racing calendars locally because of the potential risks.

"You have to put a lot of effort into producing it. If there is any mistake, the client won't pay you."

Mr Lau also says that the timeframe for producing the calendars is narrow. "We have to get everything on standby, once the confirmed dates are released, we quickly put them in and send the calendars for printing."

Swearing by the horse-racing calendar is freelance writer Sylvia Toh, 68, who has been relying on it for the past 60 years.

She says: "It is large and pictorial. At a glance, you know when are the weekends and the public holidays.

"And at a little corner somewhere, you have the Chinese animal zodiac, if you need to refer to it."

KEEP TRACK

Ms Toh uses two such calendars - one on the wall and another on her table to keep track of appointments.

She says: "I don't bet on horses but I bet on this calendar. And I tear only 11 times a year. The last piece, you just throw away."

While people like Ms Toh appreciates the beauty of the calendar, getting the younger generation to appreciate it is an uphill battle, says Mr Kwan, citing his own experience with his two teenage children.

He says: "It is good to pass down the tradition but it is not within our control as it depends on people.

"If the trend is no longer in fashion, how do you stop it from dying?"

But he vows to keep supplying it to keep the tradition and culture alive.

He says: "If there is a demand, we will produce it as long as possible. As long as we can keep it going (without losing too much money), we will. It is still viable at the moment."

Mr Kwan says that it will be a waste to see the classic calendar fade away with time.

"It has sentimental value. We would be losing something of our culture and tradition if that happens."

"We foresee that in five to 10 years' time, the demand may drop so much that we have to import instead."

- Mr Jeffrey Lau, owner of Living Calendars