As the human costs of the Coronavirus continue to escalate – having already claimed over 1,000 lives in mainland China – the uneasiness over the extent of the impact on the production of greeting cards, giftwrappings, calendars and giftware continues.
With China producing an estimated 50% of all greeting cards in the UK (by volume) not surprisingly the Coronavirus and its impact on the greeting card and gift sector was a hot topic of conversation at last week’s Spring Fair as well as at the recent Paperworld in Frankfurt.
“At it stands I feel there has been minimal impact – it is just like an extended holiday,” said Meera Santoro, co-owner of Santoro. “However it is difficult to remain calm amid all the scaremongering, as well as concern for the suppliers we have worked with for many years. This is an unprecedented situation, but from what I understand many factories are looking to re-open next week. Thankfully for our sector, Wuhan (the epic centre of the virus) is not an area known for greeting card production.”
As David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill Group (which includes Ling Design, GBCC and Penny Kennedy) highlights as Chinese New Year (when all factories shut) was early this year there has been something of a time advantage, plus “this is a quiet time of year for manufacturing products across the card and gift packaging categories. All sampling is done for Christmas, Spring is in the stores and our product development calendar is on time for 2020. Mid April is the next crunch date for putting Christmas to bed.” Commenting to PG Buzz yesterday (February 10) he said that the factories the group uses “are opening today, which is a week later than it would have been. Our understanding is that they have opened fine and workers are in place.”
As he sees it the key issue “is the supply chain in terms of raw materials in and finished goods out. According to the freight forwarders (and its very early for this too) there are not any long perceived delays in shipping and boats are available. We certainly can stand a two week delay if this was the case and this would be the most extreme according to the shipping industry although we are told anecdotally that products are travelling within HK and China OK.”
Debbie Williams, director of the Mint Group (which includes Museums and Galleries, while thankful that products from its latest launches have either landed in the UK or are en route by sea, she feels the virus is “already impacting” and has already put a contingency in place should this situation escalate.
Jeremy Bacon, ceo of the Sherwood Group (which has production facilities in the UK and China) said that its Hong Kong office re-opened yesterday with its factory planning to re-open on 24 February. “The good news is all of our staff in Hong Kong and China are well and that is our most important priority,” said Jeremy. “We can manage the risk effectively over a number of weeks. If the situation does not improve, we may need to consider Christmas production being transferred to the UK but we would not normally commence production until April.”
With April/May time being a ‘crunch’ time for calendar production, Daniel Prince, managing director of Danilo is monitoring the situation carefully. “We are fortunate that our stocks all shipped prior to Chinese New Year. We do this as we plan for the one month of factory closures. Our stock holdings are strong, and we have alternative supply options if needed via UK and Europe. We also produce in Korea some of our seasonal product mix, and if necessary the factories would be willing to help with any additional supply we need.”
Summing up the thoughts of many, Chris Bryan, general manager of Second Nature said: “Obviously this is a deeply concerning outbreak and for those who have lost loved ones, are infected, quarantined or just unable to travel it must be truly terrifying so it seems pretty crass to have any point of view other than concern for those for whom it’s impacted on. However, assuming that the virus has been ‘relatively’ contained now, from a practical perspective we’re not overly worried as we have sufficient stock to cope with a few weeks production blip and the outbreak epicentre is nowhere near our production facilities. Should things take a turn for the worse, we are formulating a back-up plan but it’s just too early to speculate.”