2021: the industry looks to the long term

The pandemic this year has and will continue to impact every sector, business and household. With further restrictions announced, the new year still presents the industry with uncertain trading conditions with Brexit transition. The BPMA’s recent survey, released at the point where positive news about vaccines hit the headlines, painted a picture of optimism on the horizon in comparison to views gathered earlier in November.

Tough trading

Whilst many events and budgets have been stalled until the latter half of 2021, spend did increase for many in the industry as demand continued to grow for reward-themed merchandise, hampers and more. The long term picture paints a more positive picture however conditions in early part of 2021 still look tough. When considering the year on year comparative impact, 9% of businesses surveyed did state they were in fact ahead of their October/November 2019 sales, the reports of sales being 47% down presents a more accurate picture, albeit a +10% improvement based on previous period surveyed. Converting orders still represents the biggest challenge (63%) followed closely by finance, staffing and changed expectations on price, service and delivery.

The long term picture was viewed more positively, with 40% reporting they felt more confident about the future vs only 21% surveyed the previous month. Optimism a much needed ingredient for the year ahead as the small increases in orders over the last quarter have been hard won and show the iron will to succeed from the industry.

Keeping communication lines open

BPMA member forums indicate both suppliers and distributors must be mindful and allow for the changes businesses have undergone this year to ensure the supply chain is able to manage expectations. Reporting positively on payment terms and cashflow in comparison to the start of lockdown, businesses are looking for continued news on important changes to keep the lines of communication open.

Confidence in doing business is being heavily influenced by the last stages of Brexit transition, with many BPMA members reporting they are still finding information and lack of clarity hard to navigate. Earlier this month, the BPMA launched their Brexit transition pages for members via their website to provide a signpost resource for members. Recognising the onslaught of information has caused challenges, BPMA members are encouraged to use this resource as a start point for the most common questions.

With a deal still to be struck for the end of the UK’s transition period, the industry awaits in anticipation the final details. The EU member states could still provisionally apply a deal before 31 December, to avoid the UK leaving the transition without new arrangements with the bloc, even without the parliament giving its consent.

Continuing their popular series of webinars into January, the BPMA will continue to address key challenges for the industry, transition, news and views from end users, opinions and information. BPMA members can register for these sessions here.

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