Is there a party life after Brexit ?

Just prior to the referendum a couple of customers asked me what sort of effect it could have on our market place. Hence, I thought it opportune to express my opinion of the major effects on the Party & Costume market. Obviously, these are only my views so I shall try and keep to the basics and not get muddled in the devious and very inexact role of politics and personal emotions.

Hence , this is perspective of the short, medium and long term effects .

Short term

In practical terms nothing has changed yet We are still in the EU. However, there are two immediate influencing factors.

A) sentiment

Sentiment has a major impact on all markets. There maybe a change in the consumers concerns about the future and reign in spending. The party market has a good record in depressions, in that it can intially buck the trend as people party to cheer themselves up. Eventually though it will effect the consumer spend within our market place

B) currency

There will be huge swings in currencies and if they are ‘down’ swings , we will have price increases . 95% of the party product bought and sold in the UK comes from outside the UK (I am struggling to think of even 5% that is made in the UK)

 The upside is everybody will be in the same boat, but it will put pressure on the consumer spend. There is the slight possibility itmay discourage consumers purchasing from far eastern web sites or even looking.

Medium Term

We will still be in the EU. Currency will still play a part , but the fluctuations may have eased off. As we will be in the process of negatioting our exit, traders may start to ignore EU (not your regular suppliers) regs and import product that does not conform to anything and consequentially ,be a lot cheaper but potentially  of poorer quality. 

Demand may have flattened because of continuing uncertainty and a lack of growth.
Long Term

We will have negotiated exit terms. No idea about currency levels, nor demand, nor consumer sentiment. However, in terms of importing this could be very complex. We may have negotiated a free trade agreement with the EU. But at that point we, probably, will not have negotiated agreements with other parts of the world ie the far east, or the USA, for starters. Will major players, such as Rubies, Amscan, Unique , Pioneer et al relocate to the EU and then reexport to the UK ? The possibilities are mind boggling .

In terms of product standards major (UK)suppliers will still comply as they want to ship into the EU, however , we won’t have any input into those standards. EU suppliers will conform to the standards , consequently still supplying into the UK , as we will not have an alternative set of standards, certainly not by then if ever. 

Online operators will start to find it is a lot more complex supplying consumers in the EU. Obviously the reverse will be true but I suspect there is more trade going out from UK web sites rather than vice versa.

Oh yes, here’s another thought. When we are no longer in the EU , UK suppliers that wish to conform to any new norms or regs, will probably have to get these comp,ex documents translated as they probably will no longer be in English.

The reality is that  it is all hypothesis , as we have no idea what and when the future holds. The only thing we can be sure of is that it will be very different. Good or bad, only time will tell. 

There are so many interwoven layers with that have to  be ‘unweaved’ and then rewoven , that for any person or body to forecast that this or that is going to happen, they would have to be barking mad. But then that was true prior to last Thursday. 

I think there will be many pages to turn in this story, before we have even the slightest idea as to the consequences . As an industry, we have always been quite good at adapting. Here , the adapting needed maybe somewhat more testing.

RU in …or..are RU out ?

It is not for me to open up any debate on this momentous decision . I will express my disgust with both sides on the appalling campaigns on both sides of the argument. It reinforces the publics poor opinion on (mainly) politicians and their pursuit of personal opportunism disguised in the cloak of democracy. One side has bleated on about ‘pie in the sky’ proposals that they would not be in a position to introduce. The other side created a doomsday scenario that just puts everybody’s backs up.

There is much that will effect our market no matter which way the vote goes. I Just want to urge everyone to vote. If you have thought through the arguments and are personally convinced by this process, then go for it . From the outset everyone demanded facts . This was never going to happen, as there are no real facts but both campaigns have managed to cobble together a load of ‘tosh and piffle’ and in some cases just plain lies . Consequently, if either side drones on about the result, they will have only  themselves to blame.

In a general election, nearly 40% of the population don’t vote , either through apathy, disillusionment or because they feel that none of the parties represent them. With the referendum ultimately there is only one excuse and that is apathy (and  not a particularly good one at that). 

Hence, therefore, so and thus , if you are comfortable with your decision , whichever it is , go and vote on Thursday , because there will be no going back  and no second chances.

There, short and sweet, not a comment you can level at the referendum campaign ! 

Green shoots….

What fascinates me about retail is that every day there is something in the media, in whatever form, about the retail industry . It surprises me that there are not more fictional  dramas about retailers because they seem to create more day to day drama than any other aspect of our daily lives with the exception of our own families.

In recent weeks we have had the very sad case of BHS . To be honest the only real sad part about this, is  the loss of 11,000 jobs and the potential effect of the pensions of current and former employees (a further 20,000 +)The demise of the chain is not at all surprising , it is surprising it has lasted this long. The drama is Phillip Green , Dominic Chapell and last but not least Mike Ashley. You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer bunch of ‘geezers’ or at least you couldn’t if you were casting a retailer’s version of a new Guy Ritchie gangster movie. 

Some of the stuff that has come out is mind boggling bonkers. Mr Chapell, who it was claimed was in the SAS(not true) also had a gun (could be true) had threatened to shoot and kill the chief executive of BHS . Well who knows ? Especially when a former financial consultant says the ‘Don’ (my suggested title) Dominic was a

“mythomaniac” and a “Premier League liar and a Sunday league retailer….”

In my long career in party market, I have come across some odd and iffy characters , but that is exactly what they were and in a funny sort of didn’t pretend to be anything else. One that comes to mind was about twenty years ago , who had a party business in East London  , turned up on my stand at a trade show and apologised for not having done business with me for some time 

….we ain’t done anything wiv ye for a bit cos I just done a free year stretch. Yeah and don’t worry I’ll pay ye up front….

And he did for a year but he disappeared again. Yes, he did talk like that and his wife was a slightly smaller version of Barbara Windsor. Maybe he is, now, behind the Don or the knight of the realm geezer with the greasy hair and several billion in his wife’s bank account. The point is in our industry the rogues tend not to prosper but when it gets to the big time(in retail ) they not only seem to prosper, flourish and walk on red carpet (literally) with apparent impunity.

Historically, I always found  that the dodgy geezers did actually wear  dodgy shiny suits and camel coats, so I should not be surprised by big(or little ) Phil ‘cos’that is the type of gear he wears.

With the party market there is likely to be a barrier to entry for the guys in camel coats and that is ‘lack of profit’. There is a good living to be earnt but not the type of numbers that would attract even the less ambitious members of The Cosa Nostra.

Failures, in our industry, generally occur through either poor management or a sequence of unfortunate events. There have been ‘dodgy dealings’ but they have been mainly in the greeting card sector, where the chains have been a lot larger. There is one notorious player who has had upwards of 600 stores, which went ‘pop’ then another that had 120 , followed by another of 80+ , and I am reliably informed is back in action somewhere. Which brings us back to the title. No it is not a euphemism for ‘Big Phil with a magnum’ (an image to conjure with, Phil with a big fat choc ice lolly in his mouth) but more about the dodgy geezers constantly rebuilding their empires. 

So what I want to know who is or what keeps watering the shoots,  and isn’t there some way of stopping them growing?

Here’s another thought ‘why is it nearly always a geezer?’ . Not forgetting Mrs Phil of course.