Malcolm Gough, Group Sales & Marketing Director Talasey Group is BMBI’s Expert for Natural Stone Landscaping Products, Vitrified Paving & Artificial Grass.
After an exceptionally weak second quarter, Q3 was remarkably strong. So strong, from people staying at home and spending on their home rather than on holidays, that stock in key areas has been drained. For lines with supply chain problems, stock is spoken for as soon as it comes in.
The pandemic has cast shadow over the supply chain from raw material extraction to packaging materials. In India, rising cases mean sandstone and limestone production is greatly reduced. In Italy factory lockdowns means that stocks of Italian porcelain are only just meeting demand. Turkey is better but still affected. Even the sealers for our Pavetuf range are affected: the factory making plastic bottles has switched to producing them for hand sanitisers.
Container shipping costs have doubled or even tripled. Shipping companies suspect that China is deliberately delaying shipping as part of the ongoing tension with the US. Decking could be affected, although we had imported significant stock earlier in the year, so we are probably less affected than other suppliers. At this point we are unlikely to get any clarity on Brexit, but the uncertainty covers everything from increased tariffs to congestion and delays in the ports. Take a guess!
Merchants are adapting quickly to this new normal. It took a while to see that longer lead times for landscaping products were more than a temporary blip and that ‘stock is king’. If merchants do not have it in stock then they can’t sell it, so merchants are planning ahead for the first quarter of 2021. They are also upselling the products they have in stock – especially with the price gap falling between some porcelain products and traditionally cheaper sandstone. Having landscaping products displayed outside is also an advantage, allowing customers to safely view the actual products before buying.
Online has really taken off. Click and collect has proven itself and merchants are investing online, against the growing threat of some manufacturers selling direct.
This new normal has forced businesses to look inward – examining every penny and the value of everything and everyone to the bottom line. I can’t speak for others, but we’ve become more efficient.