By Jacob Yount
The Chinese New Year bustle and chaos stretches all the way back to the October trade show season.
This may be an obvious observation.
But the practical application of it requires all the more vigilance in your order control…even dating back to the end of summer.
Trade Shows Adjust Supplier Focus
After the trade shows in October, factories become busier than they were just a week or two prior.
They’ve picked up new business obviously.
New requests rightly adjust their priorities.
Meeting with buyers face to face and discussing looming business “bumps” projects with less hope.
Especially if the lukewarm potential still hasn’t ordered.
Here’s my recent story…
In late summer, the factory was eager to help develop a certain item.
The item was complex, no doubt about it.
The job was dragging on in the confirmation stages.
Making this change, getting that right.
Nevertheless the factory was persevering.
Then the trade show came.
After the trade show, right before we were ready to place the PO, the factory was ready to drop the project. They wanted to reject the order.
Because we hadn’t ordered yet and there were some final tweaks. But also, after the trade show and right before the Christmas season, their workload increased.
Was the new, more enticing business for the actual Christmas holiday?
Possibly, because it’s a small item and can go via air freight.
Buyers were undoubtedly also placing orders for the supplier’s stock references.
You see, the trade show business wasn’t giving the supplier headaches like we were.
The more customization, the more tedious.
The more tedious the more mistakes the factory makes.
Longer timing, more cost, less margin.
We had to jump through hoops and a price increase to get the factory to accept and proceed with the order.
That the first reason – #1 October Trade Shows.
There’s the fair and then shortly down the road is the blob of holiday.
#2 Holiday Blob – Christmas to Chinese New Year
From Christmas season until after the Chinese New Year…
This holiday blob mixed with the increase of post trade show activity, creates a time of tension.
From my meager years of China manufacturing (ahem since 2001), I’ve noticed that around the Christmas season until the beginning of Chinese New Year morphs into one blob of inefficiency.
Previously, say 10 years ago, it wasn’t this way. Sure, Chinese New Year time was always a headache. But there weren’t so many orders to get in from October until the Christmas season. Not sure the orders necessarily have to do with Christmas, but that’s the new time of the rush.
Then of course, if you are thinking of starting any new project after January 1st, you’re basically out of luck if there’s expectancy of shipping the order before the Chinese New Year.
Basically any order that you want to ship before Chinese New Year needs to start around early October.
This is considering samples are already confirmed and specifications already hashed out.
This year, right after the January first break, I was checking with any and all factories to see if there were any smaller orders that could go before the Chinese New Year.
It was a resounding “NO”!
Even for factories that have stock references and constantly produce the same SKU. They weren’t able to obligate prior to a holiday that starts this year on February 16.
Back to my story…
The factory accepted the order after the trade show with a bump in cost.
The entire time, the sales contact person was bitter and didn’t want the case.
And then the real kicker came.
This was a highly urgent order and even with a visit to China (from the States) by flesh and blood Chinese folk (my better half and her partners), they still delayed.
The factory delayed because they took on too much business after the trade fair.
They delayed because of all the hullabaloo in this holiday blob.
Also, I think they delayed because the bulk of China factories even in 2017 (at the time) aren’t very clear on planning. Sorry but that’s how I see it…
Working the capacity as an agent or sourcing company
If you’re working in the capacity as an agent or sourcing company, the time around the Christmas season has it’s own hangups.
When the factory sees an end to their year and Chinese New Year visions dancing in their heads, the Western buyer is slow.
Slow to confirm.
Snails-pace at answering.
The buyer previously waves their arms around about shipping prior to Spring Festival, is nowhere to be found for a vital signoffs and confirmations.
Then, when they (the Western buyer) return to work, they’re flabbergasted that there’s potential their order may not ship before the Chinese New Year.
Booking shipments before the Chinese New Year
Here’s one final pain-in-the-ass this time of year. And this season has it’s share of hassle.
Spacing on shipping lines is booked to the hilt.
There seems to be a bottle neck. Shipments that depart in early February need to be booked in early January.
By the time I hit “publish” on this post, spacing is going to be tight.
So as we approach year of Dog, be mindful of this.
Then as year of the Pig rolls around, be all the more on-top-of things to maneuver in advance.
Jacob Yount lived in China from 2001 to 2012, during which time he started JLmade. He is now based out of North Carolina in the US and his home office is still in Suzhou, China; manufacturing and exporting branded merchandise, promotional products and retail gifts for distributors worldwide. Contact Jacob at email@example.com, or find him on his blog.