If you’ve got orders in with any UK supplier of promotional products at the moment and you’re against a hard deadline then now is the time to cross your fingers, get your hard hat ready and start worrying whether your order will turn up as promised.
Most promotional products supplied in the UK ultimately come from China and whilst this isn’t normally a problem because the usual turnaround times are often days rather than weeks right now it is.
Suppliers of promotional gifts that have gotten used to painless and quick shipments are currently facing what can only be described as a “melt-down” in China and specifically in the Shenzhen region. The problem is that there is not just one problem but multiple issues that have all come together to create a monster problem the size and magnitude of which most of the suppliers will never have seen before.
The events that have led to this are:
- The launch of the latest Apple iPhones and the unprecedented demand for them. This is turn have caused stresses and strains on the infrastructure in and around Shenzhen (China) where they are made (and many other electronic promotional products are made and shipped from).
- Alleged thefts of iPhones whilst in the hands of the forwarding agents and couriers which in turn has lead to increased security and customs checks (read delays!)
- Money laundering and the shipment of “cash” out of China – a recent high profile case has led to further checks in Customs in China (again read delays!)
- Holidays – next week is National Holiday and Golden Week in China so in the lead up to the holidays (when all the factories close) pandemonium breaks out as everyone tries to get their shipments out. The increased output in turn puts more pressure on an already overburdened customs and transport hub – (again, read more delays)
- Severe weather events in Hong Kong and the Shenzhen region have resulted in cancellations of some flights resulting in shipments being offloaded and rescheduled (read delays on delays)
- Increased nervousness on the part of the Chinese that anything carrying a recognised brand is a fraudulent copy – Customs Officers are now being instructed to seek written approval from the brand owners before they can allow any goods with their brand on to be shipped. This includes any branded promotional product. The issue is that requests for documentation are often not asked for until the shipment is with customs and so any request of this nature leads to delays.
The overriding message is that all of a sudden the slick and smooth “machine” that moved promotional goods (including promotional USB Memory sticks) from China to Europe in a matter of days is on the edge of being “broken”. Orders are missing their “must have by” dates and disappointment reigns. Unfortunately there is very little that can be done other than to hope things sort themselves out but an early resolution looks unlikely.