The challenges of international shipping continue, and, as a business we’re still experiencing significant delays and extremely high costs as part of our work to move goods internationally.
Ahead of Chinese New Year we took the decision to place a number of orders well in advance. This approach will also hopefully stand us in good stead as we continue to navigate the ongoing issues created by Covid-19 and port congestion caused by Brexit. The near future remains challenging but we are confident in an easing of conditions, given that we have large amounts of stock currently on the water which will be arriving over the next few weeks and months.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
The Covid Effect
The seeds of the global shipping crisis were planted before Covid hit. 90% of globally traded goods are shipped by sea and 70% is in shipping containers, while many businesses rely on just-in-time logistics to keep their stock holding and warehousing costs down.
When the pandemic began, the first casualty of the supply chain was the closure of factories and ports in the far East. Movement of raw materials and manufactured goods around the world ground to a halt. As the pandemic spread around the world, at different rates and with different measures to contain it, there was a shortage of shipping containers in major exporting countries and a build up of empty containers in countries that are net importers. With no way to return empty containers to where they were needed, the ability to book shipments on container vessels started to become a problem, shipping costs started to rise to unprecedented levels and the global shipping crisis was soon in full force.
Covid impacted the supply chain early on, but our policy of keeping high levels of stock meant that, while businesses relying on just-in-time inventory stocking were soon feeling the pinch, we were able to keep supplying our customers fairly comfortably. Over the course of the pandemic, local outbreaks and restrictions caused shutdowns of factories, ports and overland transportation and, over time, made it increasingly hard to keep our usual volumes of stock on hand.
The problems and financial impacts of the global shipping crisis have been well documented but it’s a problem that’s affecting countries around the world and one which is set to stay.
Steps We’re Taking
Staff shortages and resulting time constraints mean our courier partners sometimes have problems scanning all consignments reliably through their systems. In turn this makes our deliveries hard to track. All deliveries are tracked each morning by our Customer Care team. When an urgent delivery is flagged as a potential problem Tributes’ team members, including Chairman Richard Bush, have even taken to the road to deliver urgent consignments such as coffins, to customers all across the UK.
Our Customer Care team have continued to work hard to support all customers, and the Warehouse team has been focused on delivering against an all time high demand for coffin and international orders. Late last year our workshop team doubled their average monthly production of our photo frame urns, made in our Sussex workshop, to over 1,000 frames! Our coffin spray booth has also been working at full capacity for customers whose families wish to personalise their loved one’s coffin.
We’ve always aimed to keep high levels of stock so our customers have the comfort of knowing that, when they need it, the products they want will be available. Many of our customers are small businesses with a limited ability to hold stock and this policy has meant that they could confidently order as and when required. With this perfect storm of delays in raw materials, manufacturing, shipping and deliveries we’ve seen situations never before experienced. Despite this we are now better equipped to plan ahead and do everything we can to minimise disruption for our customers.