Ok, admittedly that’s a topical example of post-truth journalism, but in fairness it does feel like it.
According to my i-phone, I actually walked 32 miles in my first four days in Hong Kong – a little further than my daily average when I’m back in the office. Walking the myriad aisles of the Toys & Games Fair and the streets and showrooms of TST, there is certainly a lot of ground to be covered.
I touched on Chinese factory price rises in last Friday’s Blog, but since then a couple of other interesting factors have emerged. Here’s one you may not be fully aware of; the impending increase in the cost of paper and card. You’ll possibly be familiar with the major pollution problems which China has been facing. It transpires that paper manufacturing is one of the worst culprits: it is, by all accounts, a dirty business, taking into account all the chemicals and the amount of energy expended in the process. As an attempt to address the worsening environmental situation, it appears that a significant number of paper suppliers have had their licences revoked, leading to reduced capacity, potential shortages and therefore – you guessed it – a steep rise in the cost of paper-based products, packaging and transit packaging. I’ve heard of printed card increases in the region of 33% and carton box rises of as much as 40%.
And then there’s freight costs. One company told me they’re currently paying 80% more than they were during this period last year. Even allowing for the fact that we’re in what one person described as the ‘bluff period’, where shipping companies are putting a marker down from which to negotiate, the likelihood is that fairly hefty hikes are on the way.
And yet, in the face of all overwhelming evidence to the contrary, at least one major UK retailer has allegedly been trying to tell suppliers it won’t be accepting price increases (I won’t name them, but let’s just say they patted their bottom while they said it…). I genuinely wonder if they realise they’re making themselves a laughing stock? As one major supplier put it: “If they’re not accepting increases, they certainly won’t be buying anything from me.”
Finally, three things I have found out that I wasn’t aware of before this week. First, that it’s cheaper to buy a lot of things – especially big name brands – here in Hong Kong than it is in mainland China. I genuinely did not know that. I also did not know that metallic balloons are not allowed on trains or even in train stations here in Hong Kong. I know this because they specifically announced it over the tannoy system at the local MTR station. Of all the things they could have chosen to mention, this particular banned item comes as something of a surprise. If anyone can enlighten me as to why metallic balloons are so dangerous in a train-based environment, I would be eternally grateful. And thirdly, Nuremberg Toy Fair will be dropping a day in 2018 – it will now be a five day show, a move that I’m sure will be welcomed by absolutely everyone except the local hotels.
The Blog will return in its traditional Friday slot, with a round-up of some of the interesting products I’ve seen during my Hong Kong trip.