Who would have thought that ‘Brexit’ would be seen as ‘good news’, but amidst the ongoing Covid situation and its ramifications on lives and businesses, the confirmation that greeting cards are not subject to additional tariffs as a result of the agreement reached with the EU on December 24 comes as some relief to UK greeting card publishers and their European distributors.
Admittedly extra costs are and will be incurred by parties on both sides as a result of the extra paperwork, but as David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill Paper Company (which includes Ling Design, GBCC and Penny Kennedy) summed up “the fact that a Brexit deal has been struck is the most important thing. Business hates uncertainty and there’s already enough of that to go round with the Covid situation.”
Sending his assurances from the other side of the English Channel, Laurent Reiz, co-owner of Zazous Editions, distributor for a large number of leading UK publishers in France, said: “For me the UK card industry still has a beautiful future in France, as ever…Don’t worry dear friends. Please accept a huge forbidden hug from me.”
With the UK greeting card industry having long been a successful British export, the GCA’s ceo Amanda Fergusson is today (January 7) heading to a meeting held by the Government’s Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy about the UK’s Post-Transition, the latest in a series of meetings she has attended on the Brexit situation. The first of these close-knit meetings with MPs, civil servants and business leaders was in September 2019 when Amanda stressed to Michael Gove, who was fronting the meeting of the industry’s status as an exporter urging that no tariffs would be imposed. (https://www.pgbuzz.net/mp-michael-gove-responds-to-gcas-concerns-over-potential-tariffs-post-brexit/)
As Amanda told PG Buzz: “While it is good news that we are leaving the EU with the deal it is frustrating that it had to go to the wire, leaving businesses worried and unable to prepare in advance. I will do my utmost to share as much pertinent information with members on this as I can via the dedicated Brexit Blog on our website.”
The GCA’s comprehensive Brexit Blog https://www.gca.cards/brexit-updates-dec-2020/ already contains a lot of useful information such as the codes publishers need to use for their exports to the EU, but this will continue to be updated.
Plans are also underway for the GCA to organise a dedicated ‘Dealing with Brexit’ themed seminar, that will be held digitally in the next few weeks (date and timings to be confirmed) with the meeting’s recording then hosted in the members’ area of the website.
“The key to successful trading with Europe will be working with the businesses in your supply chain to ensure that you all have the correct paperwork,” adds Amanda encouraging members to make contact via firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional queries and also submitting questions that they would like to be covered at the upcoming Brexit meeting.
PG canvassed opinions from both UK publishers and European distributors for their views in this transitional Brexit period…
David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill Paper Company (which includes Ling Design, GBCC and Penny Kennedy):
“For me, the fact that a Brexit deal has been struck is the most important thing. Business hates uncertainty and there’s already enough of that to go round with the Covid situation. Personally, I always thought an agreement would happen as all parties knew how important it was, but it did get pretty scary as was so late.
We have large amounts of business in Europe and had seen our customers getting more and more concerned about the uncertainty, although sometimes it’s hard to split that out from Covid and economy-related issues. We had successfully dispatched Spring 2021 to them in December to de-risk delays and surcharges for our customers which was good and appreciated.
Personally, I’ve always been against Brexit, and even with the deal we will see increased complexity. Even into Ireland we will have greater costs due to the added paperwork and we are weighing up whether to bring the expertise in-house or outsource it.
I think this will result in customers reducing the number of suppliers and transactions due to the costs and complexity which we believe will be good for both GBCC and Ling because of the breadth of our portfolio and size of the ranges we have, so can offer a one stop shop to our European customers.”
Laurent Reiz, co-owner of Zazous Editions which distributes The Art File, Belly Button Designs, Caroline Gardner, Eloise Hall, Forever Cards, Gaya Cards, Hannah Marchant, Laura Stoddart, Meg Hawkins, Redback Cards, Ruth Jackson, Sabivo Designs and Stripey Cats in France:
“My view about Brexit is very simple – the economic British point of view has won because everybody in Europe is sharing it.
Probably nothing much will change. If we at Zazous reduce our orders it’s only for Covid reasons, not Brexit.
For me the UK card industry has still a beautiful future in France, as ever…
Don’t worry dear friends. Please accept a huge forbidden hug from me.”
Jeremy Corner, managing director of Blue Eyed Sun:
“I feel relieved from a business point of view about the agreement, but disappointed as a UK citizen. The agreement is good for trades of goods for us, especially as we sell to several countries in the EU and import some goods from Germany. While it is frustrating and costly to have more paperwork at the borders, at least both our customers and ourselves will not have to pay duties as goods enter and leave the UK.
It’s hard to say what the impact will be on greeting cards. In terms of distribution, I don’t see it having any huge impact on shipping costs for large volumes. It may hamper profitability on smaller shipments to countries like Ireland. Plus, we don’t know how currencies will level out this year as they are still being disrupted by Covid-related news.
Closing the deal to such a late stage caused a lot of logistical headaches in December and freight prices did rise significantly. The new VAT scheme will take a little getting used to, but it sounds good for cashflow. Longer term, new norms will be established and those with good distribution partnerships and product that sells will continue to do well.”
Stefan Hermann, managing director of Taurus Kunstkarten, which distributes Belly Button Designs, Louise Mulgrew and Laura Darrington in Germany:
“ My first thought was relief that that at least the agreement has been finalised so we have a bit more clarity about the situation now. The second was that a good old friend is gone, to be honest.
The whole import procedure now requires more work and therefore an increase in costs.
Our complete Spring collections arrived in ‘the old year’ meaning we have enough stock for the coming weeks.”
Click below to hear and see Stefan Hermann sharing his good wishes to UK publishers as part of last month’s Henries virtual awards event.
Daniel Prince, managing director of Danilo:
“After much uncertainty over the past few years, we are very pleased that a deal has been confirmed. It is sad to see Britain leave the EU, but we hope this agreement will be a new foundation for us to build upon with new opportunities and trade deals.
Overall, it’s positive news for the industry that the tariff-free trade agreement between the UK and EU has been secured. The process may be changing but am confident that the greeting card sector’s trade relationship with Europe will continue to go from strength the strength.
In the short term, we expect there will be some initial disruption to operations and deliveries (eg with the delays at cross Channel ports) due to these new customs procedures. However, with time, this new process will become the norm and shouldn’t cause issues in the long term.”
Neil Matthews, sales manager of Artebene UK:
“In the end some form of agreement with the EU is better than no agreement at all, obviously we await to see what the fine detail is, until then we wait and see what the implications are at border control with delays, additional administration, and costs, at the moment it is difficult to see whether there will be any benefits at all for our sector.
Spring Fair, from my point of view, will lose its European relevance as a leading exhibition for our industry. Maison & Objet as well as the Frankfurt fair will try to benefit from this change. We will have to expect less visitors from the EU to trade fairs, thus giving us more time to serve our UK customers, but in this context, we also assume that the diversity to choose from multiple European, or even global brands, will be reduced. I do believe this is a negative for retailers and consumers in the UK, but maybe a plus for the remaining British companies at the same time, because their importance as suppliers will be strengthened.
Buying from an EU-based brands will be much more difficult for British retailers and the same applies to EU-retailers that loved to buy from British suppliers.
For Artebene UK we will continue to supply and support our UK customers with the same high level of service we have always provided.”