Home Leeds Challenges of container shipping impacts upon UK retailers

Challenges of container shipping impacts upon UK retailers

James Cottrell, owner of Yorkshire-based furniture and homewares retailer Shimu

The costs associated with shipping between China and the UK have skyrocketed over the past year, with prices increasing by more than 350%. This huge increase in costs has resulted in a significant impact upon companies which are reliant on being able to import goods from China to the UK.

Although the significant cost increase can be put down to a range of factors, it is the impact which the Coronavirus pandemic has had upon the shipping industry and disparities between the timing of lock-downs which have caused the biggest problems.

James Cottrell, owner of Yorkshire-based furniture and homewares retailer Shimu, imports around £250,000 worth of antique and newly made furniture from China every year, along with other home décor products. James gives details of the problems his business has been facing: “Although there’s been a surge in demand for furniture and homewares since the start of the first lock-down last March, our ability to keep up with the demand has been challenged by difficulties in actually getting our furniture over to the UK from China.

“Lock-downs in Europe and the US led to increased demand for Chinese-manufactured consumer goods. However, whilst this proved an incentive for Chinese suppliers to increase exports, problems have arisen when locked-down countries such as the UK were unable to refill and return the containers to China. In effect, this ‘blockage’ has resulted in a significant shortage of shipping containers in Asia.

“To compound the problem further, new outbreaks of Coronavirus in China have added to the uncertainty, while businesses here in the UK have faced additional trading problems with the EU after Brexit.”

James concluded by saying: “I think we have been lucky compared to other importers in that we have at least been able to obtain container space, albeit at vastly inflated prices and with significant delays in sailing times. We have looked for ways to absorb the additional costs as far as possible, but it has been challenging. More recently we have had to bow to the inevitable by passing on a small part of the extra costs in the form of higher prices on certain product lines and I think this is something we are now seeing across retail in general.”