The coronavirus impact on the industry and beyond

Unless you have been living underground the last couple of weeks, you will more than likely have been affected by coronavirus in some shape or form. A word that in 2019 was on no-one’s radar and now only a few months later, a word that is having so much impact on everyone’s daily and working lives.

COVID-19 has swept across the UK rapidly. To date there have been 6,650 coronavirus cases in the UK and 335 deaths. Only a handful of countries worldwide have seen more people die from this invisible enemy.

At 8.30pm on Monday, April 23, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation from Downing Street and issued the following order – you will only be able to leave your house for one of four reasons:

  • Shopping for necessities.
  • Once a day for exercise.
  • Medical need or providing care
  • Travelling to or from work (if you can’t work from home).

Even when following the above guidance, people should minimise the amount of time spent outside their homes and keep two metres away from people they do not live with. All non-essential shops are now shut, as well as bars, restaurants, gyms and places of worship.

The garment decoration industry in particular has been affected by the measures the government has enforced. The cancellation of mass gatherings such as music gigs, sporting events and charity fundraisers means promowear is no longer a requirment, which means no T shirts need printing, which means a slowdown in orders, causing a knock-on effect further down the supply chain.

While we try to navigate through these uncharted waters, the message coming through loud and clear on social media is that the industry is trying to operate as normal, with staff working from home where possible and additional hygiene measures being implemented.

Ralf Oster, CEO of PF Concept, said in a statement that PF Concept’s priority is to ensure the safety and health of colleagues and customers, as well as the continuity of operations.

Account managers have been asked to stop visiting their customers and working from home has become the new norm in order to limit numbers in offices. This is not just unique to PF Concept, but measures that have been implemented by suppliers and distributors across the industry.

Mr Oster continued: “This crisis may be also the right moment to accelerate the transition towards new channels of communication.”

This is most definitely true. You’ll soon discover new ways of contacting your suppliers, whether that’s through social media, video calls or online chats. This message was echoed by Roland DG, which looked to assure Roland partners in a statement that the Roland team of experts are on hand and ready to engage with the community through social media or online during this challenging time.

The statement continued with a positive outlook: “As businesses begin to rebuild following these unprecedented and unpredictable times, Roland DG will continue to invigorate the world of digital print with initiatives and products. We will help our customers to maximise the potential of their existing technology and give honest advice on complementary systems that may help them succeed in new markets in the future.

“It’s essential that we stay connected during this period. Reach out to Roland with any questions, needs or just to say hello.”

Mr Oster continued to stress that PF Concept’s factories were operating as normal to process orders. “We are doing everything we can to keep our factories running. Developments go quick, so we assess day-by-day the situation.”

Some manufacturers have even switched their production to help with the global crisis. Fruit of the Loom said in a statement that during this unprecedented time, that the Fruit of Loom family of brands will convert production to create an essential item that is in great need today – protective masks.

The statement continued: “Personal protective equipment is desperately needed by the healthcare professionals on the frontline as they care for us all during the COVID-19 pandemic. To healthcare workers, thank you for all that you do. To our teams, we are proud of you for helping to make this happen. We are strongest when we work together.”

As this is a situation that has affected the world and not just the UK, Gildan has suspended production at its Honduras facility until mid-April in line with the Honduran government’s mandate to close all private enterprises in the country to combat the spread of COVID-19.

In a statement, a spokesman said: “All other areas of our business, including our distribution centres which service the various regions where we sell our products will remain open for the time being with good inventory availability levels to service our customers, operating with appropriate measures in place to protect our employees, including remote working arrangements for many of our office staff.”

Given the unprecedented state the industry finds itself in, all suppliers and distributors can do is monitor the situation and adjust business plans accordingly. Be sure to check your supplier’s websites or social media accounts to be kept up-to-date with their current position, as the situation changes almost on a daily basis.

Finally, Mr Oster said: “Our admiration goes to everyone who cares for one another under these difficult circumstances. Whether at home, at work or in the hospitals. Together we can make the difference.”

This is a message shared by the Printwear & Promotion team. Our thoughts are with those in the industry and beyond during these difficult times. Stay positive, stay safe and take care.

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