Every year, at about this point, we cast a look back over our shoulder and give the year about to depart a quick review before looking forward to the myriad possibilities which lay before us in the year to come. That’s a bit harder this year though, but nonetheless we’ll still do it but lets start with 2020.
2020 has, as we are all fully aware, been the year of Covid 19. Firstly, it goes without saying really that our first thoughts are with all those who have in any way been affected by the disease, and alongside some of what has happened to others, what we do here at LobsterDiecast is somewhat trivial in the grand scheme of things. But we’ll press on and review our 2020 all the same.
We’d planned a few changes for 2020 anyway – drop a few of the car shows we’d done previously but perhaps introduce a couple of others but as it turned out we ended up without any shows at all in 2020 which in all honesty was something of a mixed blessing (more time at home but less car shows!) Even those which we wouldn’t be trading at – the excellent Festival Of The Unexceptional being one we were really looking forward to, didn’t go ahead. For the first few months of the year, business carried on much as it always had. Lockdown even brought a slight uplift as everyone seemingly went shopping whilst stuck at home and summer brought the hope of a return to normal. It wasn’t to last though. The knock on effect of global disruption to manufacturing and supply chains meant a shortage of new releases and restocks of existing ones which in turn impacted our stock levels with some ranges being impacted greater than others.
To counter all the negativity, we pounded our keyboards and created our #Afterwards series of articles (you can find them under News if you haven’t already seen them) as we felt that in what was quite a bleak time, we just as much as anyone else needed something to look forward to and writing them was quite cathartic so that they were well received was a bonus! We’ve also tried to support friends of LobsterDiecast who have been creating content to brighten these dark times and on YouTube in particular we’re delighted that PetrolBlog and The Late Brake Show have done as well as they have in 2020 although it would be fair to say our contribution had nothing to do with their success but we’re happy they’ve had a good year. In the absence of any actual car shows this year, we also had a delve into the archives to remember shows from years past – a sort of Good, Bad and Ugly which you can find here!
So if that was 2020, what does 2021 bring then? We can’t discuss 2021 without discussing Brexit. Because it seems that along with Covid, which will probably impact the first few months of 2021 at the very least, Brexit is the other big challenge to deal with.
Now this isn’t the place to get into whether Brexit is a good thing or not although if the economy was driven by fish, seemingly all would be well. But with (at the time of writing) just under two weeks until the end of the transition period, we still don’t know what’s actually happening. We’ve read all the government advice, watched the webinars and heard the adverts telling businesses to ‘Prepare’ (how?) but the reality is we are none the wiser on what happens in January which is a pretty poor state of affairs really.
So here’s what we do know and also a bit of context to frame it in. Historically, around 45% of our business at LobsterDiecast is with countries in the EU. It was always the case that it was no harder or more expensive or with any additional complexity to post a parcel to Barcelona or Berlin than to Birmingham. That’s all set to change. So customers in Barcelona or Berlin (and also, it seems, Belfast despite being part of the UK) will be subject to customs charges on delivery. How much exactly will depend on local regulations but for a £25 parcel entering the UK, customs and handling fees can typically add around an extra £10 depending on various things. So that’s going to have an impact on how much we sell abroad it seems. Additionally, much of our stock is sourced either directly or indirectly from European suppliers and yet, nobody can as yet tell us what the likely price increase due to customs charges and tariffs will be. We do know that shipping prices in both directions are going up and we’ve been told that a 50% increase seems about what to expect.
TL:DR? In short, 2021 will bring price rises for UK collectors and make us less competitive in Europe. In addition to all that world of unhappiness, Covid has pushed air freight prices up, so destinations outside the EU – Australia, South America for instance – are far more expensive to ship to and as the US pulled the US Postal Service out of the international customs union (which means that countries don’t charge extra for delivering inbound mail), meant that prices to the USA went silly.
So what happens next? Honestly, we don’t know. Like every other retailer we’ve bought a bit of extra stock in December to see us into January but what happens next is a mystery. We do expect costs to increase which sadly have to be passed on, collectors in Europe and Northern Ireland look set to be faced with customs fees from January on anything shipped from the UK but otherwise we’ll carry on trying to bring a great range of diecast and providing great service. The future may be uncertain and we’ll probably need to rationalise what we do to a certain extent – concentrating on some ranges more than others but one way or another we’ll find a way through the confusion!
Finally, we can’t end 2020 without thanking you for your support and custom this year, have a great Christmas and stay safe and we’ll venture into 2021 together!