#2: 10 years of Global Display Procurement…

Upright UK Ltd celebrates its 10th year in business this year, so we’ve been getting a little nostalgic and started looking back over how the last ten years have been. Here’s number two in our blog post series “10 years of….”

10 years on: how has the global display procurement chain changed?

hong kong 2Back when Upright UK was founded, the big news in the retail design industry was all about outsourcing retail display equipment procurement to traditionally ‘cheaper’ countries such as China. Price was and still is to some degree seen as key, and we slotted in to that theme offering our worldwide procurement and manufacturing chains to the UK market. In a pre-recession world, companies concentrated on large-scale strategic purchasing; with the slow-down and increased competition, businesses now often look for a shorter, more responsive turnaround and the ability to produce seasonal display campaigns with a much shorter lead-in time. Now that we’re apparently officially out of recession, the caution has remained to a certain extent, and, as we’ll see later, the way in which companies operate in the UK has shifted.

There has been a corresponding shift towards a reluctance to buy global and an enthusiasm to buy British that has worked alongside trends in turnaround times to bring the focus very much back to the UK. And where costs were seen as higher for domestic production ten years ago, now, with improved labour relations and higher import costs for overseas retail display production, pricing has been evening out. In addition, China, where many of our display units were procured in the past, is concentrating on its own domestic market, plus exporting costs have risen due to the lower numbers of orders being processed there, and UK suppliers and manufacturers are able to provide that fast turnaround, flexibility and the ability to cope with larger orders which the market is asking for nowadays. What we’re seeing here, then, is a shift to focusing on the domestic market and its link to domestic suppliers, all around the world.

Other countries have come in and out of favour; Turkey arose as a geographically closer manufacturing base, but its lack of membership of the EU has made importing / exporting more tricky, where the EU offers the necessary transport links and communications. Rob Pryse-Jones comments, “As the Euro has matured it has made cross border trade far easier to manage”, and in particular, “Almost all documents/transactions are almost exclusively handled electronically”.

In addition, Upright UK Limited has itself moved from only providing a procurement service to providing a one-stop-shop retail display design, procurement and installation service, giving cost benefits to customers who prefer to use one company to undertake the whole range of processes needed. In a recession and post-recession era, clients are looking for best value but not at the cost of time or quality, so pulling procurement back into the UK ends up making sense for everybody. So while we’re proud to still offer a global procurement chain when that is needed, we’re also always looking to match our clients’ changing needs and expectations.

Staff Photos Rob smallAs mentioned above, the way in which UK firms in particular are operating now has shifted. Rob Pryse-Jones comments on this change: “Some clients are moving to having centralised/outsourced accounts departments where all financial issues, from the raising of POs through to invoice enquiries could be handled by an office outside of the UK”. When Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) are concerned, there is change at both ends of the chain: “Clients’ T&Cs have meant credit terms are much longer than they used to be, and Procurement departments now have the upper hand over the Marketing departments in the way marketing budgets are spent … Suppliers’ T&Cs are far more stringent as more and more have caught their clients’ ‘cold’”. So the atmosphere in which we are all working has tightened up and it’s critical to be able to work within the stringent procedures both clients and suppliers are imposing.

At the end of the day (or of the first ten years, at least!) a significant proportion of our clients asked for quicker turnarounds and British manufacture as part of their own financial strategy of working smarter, faster and more flexibility, and we’ve worked with them to put these retail design and financial strategies into place.

What do you think? Do you agree? Has your 10 years in the industry reflected ours or something different? Feel free to share this post if you’d like to and we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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