Industry insights―challenges & opportunities in 2020-21

We talk to some industry insiders about their challenges and highlights in 2020 and what they are looking forward to in 2021.

Online potential for future growth

2020 was such a challenging year, but it was also full of opportunities. I think when I look back on 2020 in years to come I will think of it as the WORST BEST thing that ever happened to us.

Our bricks and mortar store in Orange was closed for three months. It allowed me the time to focus completely on our online store, creating great original content (particularly through Instagram where we took our audience along for the ride through the highs and the lows of lockdown) and it gave me the opportunity to tick off some of the bigger picture ideas that had been floating around in my head for years.

Our online store went bonkers and it highlighted for our business that online has so much potential for future growth. Our challenge now is to turn those first time buyers into loyal clients.

When we reopened our doors after the three months I didn’t want all of that stress and heartache to be for nothing―I wanted to open with a bang. We revamped our branding and all packaging, combined both my homewares and clothing store on the one website and worked with some brands on exciting collaborations to create our own unique product―Kip and co, Bonita, Robert Gordon, Rewild and Co.

Pip Brett, owner Jumbled

Expect the unexpected

After a rocky start the toy market proved to be incredibly buoyant last year. It’s clear that parents working from home are struggling to keep young children entertained. 

Despite the pandemic, 2020 was an extraordinary year for Artiwood. We relocated our office, secured a product of the year award, appointed a new national key account manager, hired more support staff and added three new brands to our portfolio. The toy market also proved surprisingly buoyant. Both online and physical retailers reported sales ahead of 2019. For Artiwood, our sales finished the year almost 75 per cent ahead of 2019.This result would be higher had we sourced inventory fast enough to meet demand. The toy industry was incredibly fortunate to find itself an unexpected beneficiary of the pandemic.

Covid-19 remains the primary driver of retail performance in 2021. In the toy sector, house-bound parents remain keen to keep their children entertained. Families will continue diverting discretionary income spent on overseas vacations and social outings towards bringing a little joy into their lives.  As a result we expect many of our industry’s trends to continue until mid-year. We’ll then see seasonal sales growth kick in which may go some way to masking any downward trend that emerges in the second half. 

However, while we expect sales to remain elevated, forecasting just how far abnormal trends will recede remains a challenge. Covid-19 will also drive new importing challenges. For example, there are chronic shipping container shortages in China and Thailand thanks to subdued imports in 2020. It’ll take the global supply chain a year or more to rebalance the location of containers worldwide. Until this happens, shipping charges will remain elevated and import schedules abnormally volatile. 

Without doubt, expecting the unexpected remains the new normal in 2021. A major Covid-19 outbreak anywhere in Australia could swiftly cripple consumer and business sentiment and leave us all struggling to recover. 

Andrew McGregor, managing director – customer service, sales & marketing, Artiwood

Support for local retail

Wow―2020 was the craziest year yet. The first few months we couldn’t get stock shipped as Covid-19 closed parts of China and after it arrived here in March we didn’t want to order as sales tumbled.

Things recovered after lockdown in July to September but then we ran short of stock with slow supply from factories, huge shipping delays and massive increases in shipping costs. This affected sales in September and October while November and December sales were well above 2019 as more stock arrived. With support from the government through JobKeeper in April to September, the cash flow boost helped us survive the worst of the downturn.

For us, we found regional customers did exceptionally well right through 2020 as they were almost not impacted by Covid-19 in most areas. We think the absence of spending on overseas travel has helped support local retail and local tourism and this is likely to continue through 2021.

Chris Noel, director of TNW Australia

Read the whole article in our January 2021 issue which is out now or check out the digital edition!