EVERY Thursday at 1pm Made in Britain hosts #madeinbritainhour on Twitter. During that hour Made in Britain asks questions of its 19,500 followers and the results are fascinating. Previously this information was enjoyed by the audience at the time and then left to drift away in the Twittersphere, rarely read again. So, we have decided to capture some of the best comments and re-present them for a new audience and easy reference. Some of the responses have been edited.
This week we take on the dreaded 'C' word (Christmas) and the even worse 'B' word (Brexit)!
Question one: How should manufacturers prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period on 1st January 2021?
Response: It is our job to advise and support our manufacturer clients so we are utilising the contacts we have in specific areas to do this - for example in #intellectualproperty. There's still too much obscurity for truly effective planning with any confidence.
Response: This is a huge issue isn't it? The complexity and lack of clarity create a lot of uncertainty. It's such a huge change that even with robust preparation there is going to be a large element of learning as you go.
Response: 'Learning as you go' indeed which is disconcerting when you consider the costs that may be involved (both financially and time-wise) in getting it wrong!
Response: Absolutely - I should have added 'Learning quickly as you go', as the risk of things going wrong could be financially material.
Response: For those companies that already export to the rest of the world keeping up to date with new trade agreements is essential.
Made in Britain CEO John Pearce: Agreed. there are some very real opportunities and, as always they come with a few new risks. Personally, I think the opportunities in 2021 out-weigh the risks. But those opportunities might not be the ones people expected. We must all be prepared.
Addison Precision (Made in Britain member): In terms of supply chain, again, there is very little that is overtly coming from overseas, although we do anticipate there may be longer lead times on some items. Our partnerships tend to be with UK based subsidiaries of bigger outfits so we have to be confident they're OK.
Response: For those who are importing from the EU and the rest of the world they should be looking at the changes in processes that are likely to be introduced as a result of leaving the EU. Even if they do not import from the EU. Get advice.
Response: Get advice is the best advice.
Stitchedboxes (Made in Britain member): 100% check how it will affect you. There may be changes you have no idea about that will ultimately become a problem next year!
Made in Britain: Do you think it has been made clear where business can actually do the "checking"?
Stitchedboxes: Not at all unless the business owners have been mailed a secret manual personally. I think the whole pandemic has distracted a lot of people from making well-needed changes and distracted the relevant parties from putting out the information needed.
Response: Allow for delays in delivery time when quoting export customers. Allow for extra projected costs for customs clearance & research this aspect for your target overseas markets. Extra costs may apply in Letters of Credit as well- do your homework!
Response: The first step is to work out how you may be affected - particularly if you import/export to/from Europe, employ European citizens, have patents or other IP registered, have EU funding.....the list is extensive
Made in Britain: The list is extensive, are the answers visible to most of the list or not?
Response: I think there are some initial answers and broad guidance on the gov website, but the detail is still to be worked out in a lot of cases, so those answers will evolve. Certainly, the basics are there, though, to highlight what the new processes might look like.
Addison Precision (Made in Britain member): Our immediate customer base is very much UK based, however, across the group, we deal with multinational (not just EU businesses, so it remains to be seen. All we can do is to remain flexible and ensure, as we have anyway, that our accreditations and paperwork is up to date.
Made in Britain: Do you think this means having to potentially increase resource to deal with maintaining this flexibility?
Addison Precision: It's unlikely, the last few months have forced us to already look at the entire operation very closely and future planning has already taken #Brexit into account. We don't anticipate any major shocks in our supply chain. On sales, the virus has already changed our view anyway.
Question two: What opportunities do you think there will be for British manufacturers post-Brexit?
John Pearce: Re-think everything and #BuildBackBetter - not repeat all the errors.
Stitchedboxes (Made in Britain member): There's a lot more the manufacturing industry can do and will do, the looming question is, will it be enough? I sure hope it will and believe it will.
Easify (Made in Britain member): The biggest opportunity will be the ability to be agile. The ability to react quickly to emerging opportunities and to fast-track any legislation that might be required to enable & support that. However that relies on a government that puts British interests first.
Response: Can we be agile? We are labouring under two unknowns? Potentially dithering?
Response: There are always opportunities for trade. Dynamic companies go out to find them. The UK is the 6th largest economy in the world. There are many countries that want to work with us.
Response: Absolutely - there are always opportunities if you look close enough and smartly enough. It will no doubt be a rough ride, but staying positive and planning for the longer-term is crucial.
Response: If you aim to succeed you are more likely to be successful. If you sit and wait you will be left behind.
Addison Precision (Made in Britain member): The hope has to be that there will be both opportunities onshore and, with new trade deals, in new markets where we actually compete with the EU rather than forced to take what we're given. We're not a 1st tier exporter so it's not entirely in our hands. If the chance arose.
Response: Yes, being an optimist I totally agree.
Addison Precision: Optimism and Opportunism. Get yourself in the right place so when the right time occurs you're ready. The history of the entire group demonstrates this wholeheartedly. The right time will always happen.
Response: Opportunities in Japan for the healthcare market with innovative quality UK products, with the Japanese rapidly ageing population.
Response: Reshoring may well dominate as we combat difficulties in intl trading, project ops and travel to seek steadiness. These are reactive trends and the COVID response will eclipse the Brexit response. The bigger opportunities in EV, space and energy will be a gov stimulated trend.
Addmaster (Made in Britain member): Clients wanting to order increased raw materials so as not to have any hold-ups in production due to congestion at ports.
Response: Dover is not the only port in the UK. Having deliveries by ship to more local ports will improve any delays. Those selling to the UK will be happy to reroute to ensure the sale.
Addison Precision: There's a huge investment at Teesport and Middlesbrough by @PDPorts and @AVDawson and traffic through there is rising rapidly showing there's much more to life than Dover.
Response: There are always opportunities for trade. Dynamic companies go out to find them. The UK is the 6th largest economy in the world. There are a many countries that want to work with us.
Question three: How are the preparations in the retail sector for Christmas 2020 different to previous years and how does this affect manufacturers?
Response: It didn't seem like Christmas could get any earlier, but the general feeling I am seeing is that people are expected to do Xmas shopping earlier through fear of December restrictions - and much more online of course. Preparations will likely reflect this.
Response: Christmas will not stop, even if the mainstream media have said so. It will be an oasis of hope and relief from the doomsayers. People will make the most of it and those who can will make it work. Retailers will do well through their online sales channels.
Stitchedboxes (Made in Britain member): Depending on their business model, I can assume the majority will be online shopping based, which would probably benefit manufacturers. If they only plan to sell in-store, I predict a huge drop in sales from previous years.
Response: We are seeing more UK businesses focus on their own online shops since COVID, as opposed to using channels like eBay/Amazon. If shoppers can't shop in person, it's important they buy from UK sellers online shops as this prevents a huge chunk of margin being taken by eBay/Amazon.
Made in Britain: That is an interesting observation. Does this mean that they some are having to add fulfilment/shipping departments to their businesses? or are there alternatives?
Easify (Made in Britain member): Many of them already sell online so are already geared for shipping. However, it's possible to trade online locally. We saw a number of businesses up their local online presence and offer local delivery for example.
Response: One small local brewery went and purchased four small vans to do local delivery to homes at the beginning of lockdown. They have also made online "evenings in with all your friends" a regular until they could open their taproom.
Question four: Are British manufacturers of gifts/luxury items seeing changes in buying habits/channels?
Stitchedboxes: From our POV, since we usually provide boxes that luxury items go in, we've had a slight boost in sales but nothing overwhelming or noteworthy. But it could also be from people stuck at home selling homemade products.
Response: Goods properly displayed are half sold. Understand the customer experience journey and optimise your online offerings to meet their perceptions.
Response: We've seen a slight decline in luxury product sales in terms of our home care brand since lockdown restrictions lifted, to be honest, but are #automotive sales are on the rise again following lockdown with garages reopening and more people back on the road.
Join Made in Britain on Twitter at 1pm every Thursday for #madeinbritainhour. We engage with everybody, members and non-members alike (some of whom become members as a result). As you can see, our transcripts read like a friendly chat down the pub – probably the most useful pub chat you've ever had!