The Outdoor Leisure Industry is facing a looming crisis. The majority of the industry manufactures products in the far east and imports them into the UK. Orders are placed with the factories in September/October for delivery into the UK, in January/February the following year.
This year the COVID-19 outbreak in China in January caused the factories to close, delaying the production and shipments of products.
China has now resumed production and containers that should have arrived during February/March are on the water and beginning to arrive at Felixstowe or Southampton.
Containers are stranded
Ordinarily these containers would hit the ports and be delivered direct to stores. However due to Coronavirus, garden centres and other non-essential businesses have closed and the containers are stranded at the ports incurring escalating demurrage and detention charges.
LOFA estimates a 6-week lockdown could cost its members as much as £5m on top of the loss of revenue. This will have catastrophic implications for its members, which are small and medium sized businesses. They have already paid for the stock.
It is urging the government to step in to persuade the ports and shipping lines to relax, defer or halt these charges for a minimum of three months. In China these charges were frozen at the height of the pandemic.
Some retailers are refusing to accept deliveries
Gina Hinde, LOFA Marketing Manager, says some retailers are helping by opening stores to take in their orders where it is safe to do so. However, others are keeping their doors firmly closed and some are refusing to accept deliveries or pay for their orders.
She says, “Many of our LOFA members who have been trading for many years might find themselves having to close their businesses if something is not done and done quickly to reduce or defer these costs from shipping lines.”
The Leisure and Outdoor Furniture Association represents 70 companies that manufacture and import garden furniture, barbecues and accessories for the outdoor leisure industry.