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Firstly a warm Kung Hei Fat Choi to you! (apologies if this is miss-spelt)

So Chinese New Year is here (CNY) and this year is the year of the goat.  All very interesting but why am I writing a piece on this I hear you say?  Well in truth it’s been something I have wanted to do a piece on for a while as I’ve always been interested in the scale of the Chinese New Year and at this time of year the team here is often using the generally accepted abbreviation of CNY in our notes and conversations with clients and our FE factories (there’s another  abbreviation!) so it’s relevance at the moment is very apt.

What is the Chinese New Year all about?

The Chinese New Year (CNY) is often referred to as the ‘Spring Festival’ as well and it is of huge importance to the Chinese people as it represents an opportunity to spend a substantial length of time with families and friends as well as a time of giving gifts and an exchanging of red envelopes and red bags.  The people of China celebrate in a variety of ways for example on the Spring Festival Eve, many people set off fireworks and firecrackers with a view to casting away any bad luck and bringing forth good luck.

The scale of the Spring Festival is huge and this is particularly what spikes my interest as CNY leads to one of the largest human migrations in the world.  Why? well over the CNY period the Chinese people do a lot of travelling some travelling to and from families and friends visiting, but the majority is factory workers returning to their provinces and families.  The majority of the factories and manufacturing plants are based in the coastal regions of China so during the CNY the the workforce from these factories return to their homes and families.  These are often located vast distances away from where they work making travel at this time of year a particularly busy event.  The official length of the holiday/festival is 1 week but in reality it’s usually at least a 2 week shutdown period which is typical for the admin, sales and management teams of the factories.  The factory floor/production workers will have at least the same but in most cases longer at approx 4 weeks off.  This length of time off can depend on various factors such as accumulated holiday and in the cases of some workers how far their home and family is from their place of work as they can often leave weeks or days earlier for travel reasons.

This year the CNY is on the 19th Feb but the date itself changes each year as the it’s decided upon by the lunar calendar but it usually falls between mid-Jan and the end of Feb.  The return date for the office and production staff at the factories also varies depending on when they go but typically it’s linked to the lantern festival which is approx. 15 days after the CNY date although in most cases staff and workers start returning before this date.

 

How does CNY affect the Promotional Industry?

Firstly the CNY causes a massive shutdown period across all factories, there are some exceptions with some office staff always being ‘on’ and working shift patterns but generally the shutdown is felt for 1-2 weeks and sometimes even longer for the production side of things.  Now there are a number of popular promotional products such as lanyards, wristbands and keyrings (to name a few) along with bespoke orders and USB memory sticks that are affected by this shutdown in our FE factories as they are produced at time of order.  The obvious implication is the extended production timescales due to the CNY which obviously has a knock-on affect to the delivery leadtimes, before, during and after the CNY.

But this isn’t the only thing that’s affected over this period, in the haste to get orders despatched before CNY there is also massive pressure on:

*Cargo ‘Space’ – As factories try to secure despatches pre CNY the pressure on Freight space hots up

*Production Schedules – Same as above really but with some of  factory floor workers leaving early for the CNY there is pressure to get orders completed on time

*Quality Control Procedures – These need to be adhered to to ensure that nothing slips through under this intense pressure.

 

How team BH1 deals with CNY?

At this time of year the team at BH1 HQ is very hard at work behind the scenes ensuring the the affect of the CNY is minimised to all of our clients.  How I hear you say, well there are number of things but it all starts with our supply chain.  We’ve worked very hard over the years (and continue to do so) to develop and nurture our supply chain from both a global and national point of view.  Granted there are some very hard lessons that we have had to learn along the way but the hard work has more then paid off as our mutually beneficial relationships echo the same values and ethics we have, these relationships are very much long standing, so much so that they have become good friends too.  With the fantastic support of our supply chain it enables us to follow a simple but effective process:

Planning – The planning starts for the CNY in the last quarter of the previous year.  The first step is to try and identify any potential orders that might be affected be the CNY shutdown by looking at our client order history and frequency and if we thing there is a chance that an order that is ‘usually placed’ will be affected by the CNY shutdown then we contact the client to advise them.

Preparation – The next step is to prepare for those enquiries that we cant predict.  We do this by having a range of alternative options of the same products that we can turnaround usually on a express service in a mere matter of days.  There is sometimes a price difference but this gives us a great flexibility and is perfect for any of those last minute enquiries and orders that are time critical.

 

One Final Thought…

In gathering intel and research for this piece I came across a fascinating amount of stories about the CNY (and a mention to these sources is below) and I can’t really imagine the scale of it but my final thought is this:

I wonder if the UK could implement an annual shutdown and how it would cope?

 

Sources
Our friends in the FE – you know who you are!, various articles, blogs and bloggers

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