It’s a fact that I am just not a great sleeper. But lately, my already disturbed sleeping patterns have grown worse to the point where I just cannot get a good night’s rest!
My hope with this blog is that I can offer insight into Gerson world, and share with you current issues that have an affect on our mutual business. And although I rarely get good sleep, the cause of my current dilemma is a result of occurrences across the world in China. You would never think that something happening so far away could cause challenges for us, but this is the world we live in.
The biggest challenge for those sourcing in China (like Gerson) used to be so simple: How and where to find the best product from season to season. But now that has really shifted in such a way that designing and finding exciting products is the least of our challenges, and the bulk of our work really begins afterwards. In 2017 – specifically the last 6 months – factories in China have begun experiencing impactful changes to their businesses, which in turn affects importers like Gerson, our customers, and ultimately, the U.S. consumer.
The four areas which have the potential to increase pricing and challenge future deliveries are:
- Labor: Many of our products are hand-made, and the younger workers coming into the labor market in China are seeking work environments such as tech companies and newer, more automated facilities. Thus factories are having a tough time finding enough qualified and dedicated workers, which drives up labor costs.
- Environment: The Chinese government has their version of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), called the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), which has recently begun making a concerted effort to improve environmental conditions throughout the country by the end of 2017. In order to meet their goal, the MEP is currently inspecting and closing thousands of factories that do not conform to their environmental standards. This is challenging deliveries of product being imported from China, as well as driving up costs because factories must invest in equipment to conform.
- Packaging: Costs in this area have risen 30% in the last 6 months, and this is on top of price increases in 2016. Shipping cartons, product displays and tagging are all significant components in production of product coming into the U.S.
- Currency: Like any other currency, the Chinese Renminbi (RMB) fluctuates against the U.S. dollar. And this year, Chinese factories are losing 3-5% on the exchange rate. As a result, Chinese factories are passing along price increases of 3-5% to cover this gap. (It’s interesting to me that when the currency works in their favor, price decreases are rarely offered..)
The effect of these four obstacles in China both challenge future delivery dates and create price increases which we always try hard to negotiate against. And although this quadruple ‘whammy’ is exceptionally tough to manage, our company strategies are aimed at minimizing the effect they will have on us, and in turn, our customers.
Communication is one of our company’s primary goals this year, and we are committed to sharing information with our retail partners and associates. I believe it is more important that we communicate our plans so that our customers understand and know we are always committed to work hard on their behalf to navigate these choppy waters.
We all have challenges in our respective roles in the world of retail, and supplying WOW product priced competitively and delivered as promised, is our challenge and responsibility. We don’t want The Gerson Company to ever be responsible for anything less than a great night’s sleep!
On that note, even with the growing obstacles these days in navigating sourcing in China, I realize how small these challenges are compared with the millions of people whose lives have been turned upside-down by the hurricanes. Our thoughts and prayers are with those suffering, and we are hopeful their lives will return to normalcy in the near future. We want all our customers to know that we are working closely with our many customers who are scrambling to re-open their businesses in the affected areas.
Action Plan on Prevention and Control of Air Pollution, MEP: http://english.mep.gov.cn/News_service/infocus/201309/t20130924_260707.htm
“What Will It Take to Clean China’s Air”, Yang Yi: http://thediplomat.com/2017/06/what-will-it-take-to-clean-chinas-air/
“Small business owners struggle to bounce back after Hurricane Irma and Harvey”, James Dennin: