UK opening up signals boost in enquiries

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced this week restrictions will be lifted across the UK is a welcome signal for some, caution and nervousness for others. Professor Chris Witty stated at the same press conference he will still be a mask wearing stalwart summing up a mixed message from Government. A reported positive response to the easing of restrictions with many sectors who have long claimed they are safe plus brands sitting on budgets are all now getting on with their plans which mean business for the promotional merchandise industry.

With days of discussion of how the UK is now going to be open again, the industry has been enjoying a steadily growing stream of enquiries and orders in the last month. Suppliers and distributors report a resurgence in activity, leaving many rushed off their feet dealing with new demand and returning customers who have waited for a clear signal to proceed, expecting orders fast. In addition, there is a greater and growing emphasis on environment and traceability as end-users up their game to show customers they live by their values, expecting more information up front about origin and certification of goods.

Earlier this year, forecasts showed the UK was going to bounce back faster than any other world economy, including China and the USA. Fingers crossed this earlier than anticipated regeneration continues so forecasting goals no longer feel like staring at Mystic Meg’s crystal ball.

Plan, plan, plan

During the last year, it is not just the pandemic which has caused disruption; our exit from the EU on 1st January has had a lasting impact on the way we do business. As an industry, we are the masters at fast turnaround and delighting end-users with our innovative approaches, but it is clear some changes have impacted the super speed order. With adjustments in the way we work, especially around import and export, it is imperative to manage the expectations of customers by asking critical questions from the supply chain.

From the point of quotation, distributors are encouraged to check how fast stock is being sold. With reports end users who are used to returning to a quote several weeks after an initial request to complete an order only to find there is no stock left, ask suppliers if stock can be reserved for a short period to allow for fast negotiations (and of course shortening the selling process!).

A continued squeeze on raw materials such as cardboard, plastics and paper coupled with longer lead times due to customs for example might mean pre-pandemic timescales are no longer achievable.  All parties should be clear on leadtimes and restrictions which may now factor as part of an order. The industry has been addressing these challenges head on for some time and as the orders come flooding in, its time for the industry to deliver brilliant merchandise to the masses through a well managed supply chain.

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