Key 2021 Business Trends
What are the forces which will impact your business the most this year? We think that these four trends are the ones to watch:
- Supply chain – right sizing your stock on hand and strengthening your supply lines.
- Working from home – office workers expect to have work flexibility.
- Lack of qualified staff – returning NZ citizens may fill some gaps, but not in all industries.
- Low interest loans – cheap credit, but tighter credit conditions.
Supply Chain Uncertainty
Covid-19 continues to circle the globe, and it will be several months before the vaccines have a positive impact on international logistics. In New Zealand, we have plenty of food and water for the population, but we will continue to have shortages for imported manufactured parts. The sharp drop of sea freight and air freight deliveries, recent delays unloading at Ports of Auckland, skyrocketing freight charges have made the supply of imported goods less reliable.
Does that mean holding more stock is the answer? Evaluate all your stock items and identify which ones are vital to your current business. What are the lead times? Do you have access to alternatives? Can you lock in a supply agreement on consignment? Make sure you check the supply agreements are water-tight, and you have good relationships with suppliers.
We spoke with Wayne from an Auckland engineering business. He said "Relationships with suppliers and customers are paramount to getting through this.
"We have raw material (sheet steel) sitting on our shelves as consignment, so we pay for it when we use it, but have some stock on hand. This has reduced the stock holding by our suppliers in their own warehouses and reduces freight costs from them to us. We forecast (as best we can in current times) to the suppliers and all parties communicate often on where we are. Currently their orders are being short shipped, so they don't know what they are going to get till it arrives. When this happens, those with great relationships go to the front of the line.
"That said, nothing's perfect, A supplier of ours was keeping stock of a particular material type and size for us, our customer had reduced orders on us which meant we weren't ordering from them. They had a request for the same material and size and sold it from under us without telling us. When we needed it, it was gone and we had to find new supplies from others at increased pricing and limited quantities. We had slipped up with our communication to them.
"Going forward we need to continue the focus on communication for all our suppliers and make sure its two-way, not one-way. It's about being first to know what's changing, so you can act, not react."
Working from Home
The genie is out of the bottle. Now that Covid-19 Alerts have given office workers and their teams a taste of workplace flexibility, they are demanding to be able to work from home at least some of the time. Some corporates continue to have fewer people in the office and more people working remotely. This means that many will be looking for smaller tenancies than before.
An urban pharmacist advised us that foot traffic dropped considerably in the CBD, from a combination of fewer office workers and interminably long roadworks. The current America's Cup will help hospitality, but each Level 3 Alert has a negative impact on all CBD retailers.
Lack of Qualified Staff
When NZ called its citizens home in 2020, we rubbed our hands at the thought of the Brain Gain. Sadly, the returning citizens do not fill all the gaps. Marisa Bidois of the Restaurant Association says 30% of hospitality workers are immigrants on temporary work visas and that its hard finding NZers willing and able to fill vacant roles.
Panel beaters and other trades have also struggled to hire highly skilled workers from within our borders, while immigrants with work visas are unable to enter NZ. They have to be innovative in their recruitment processes and upskill current staff.
Low Interest Rates
Mortgage brokers and lenders are incredibly busy with residential and commercial lending, and borrowers are experiencing long delays getting their paperwork. Commercial lending is applying more structure to the loan book, insisting on up-to-date financials, business plan and cashflow budgets as bare minimums. We are helping many clients prepare more regular reports for lenders.
Even though interest rates are expected to remain low for some time, the banks still want to see that the business can meet repayments.
Covid-19 pressures will be with us for some time. Focus on your supply chain, employing and retaining qualified staff, workplace flexibility and keeping lenders happy if you want to succeed in 2021.
- Serena Irving
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The information and examples given in this article are general in nature and are not personal investment, financial or tax advice. We recommend that you contact the author or another professional advisor for advice that is specific to your needs. Serena Irving is a director in JDW Chartered Accountants Limited, Ellerslie, Auckland. JDW is a professional team of qualified accountants, auditors, business consultants, tax advisors, trust and business valuation specialists.