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The Freight Debate: Pioneer Europe

So far this year, our industry comment has centred largely around the UK leaving the EU and the complications faced by the industry as a result. Nearly five months on, while businesses are still adapting to this change, international trade has been hit with another crisis, termed as a worldwide shipping crisis.

If you had transported a 40 foot container at around this time last year, your invoice would have been somewhere near the $2,000 mark. Ship the exact same freight today and it will set you back a rather different sum in the late double figures.

This enormous price hike has been borne out of a combination of different factors centred around a disruption to all areas of the supply chain following the COVID pandemic. But ultimately, as general trade now begins to pick up again, with lockdowns in the UK and further afield beginning to ease, and commerce returning to something resembling normality, the shipping crisis is posing yet another huge stumbling block to trade and threatening the security of businesses which depend on this import and export method.

So it seems the party industry, alongside most others, will have to ride out the proverbial storm, while finding ways to offset and absorb the inflated costs in the short term, meanwhile restructuring their businesses to navigate the challenges of Brexit. spoke to some of the key players in the party sector to find out how they are managing the issues and working around them:

Julie Dommett Qualatex


“As we are all now very aware, the effects of the pandemic are far-reaching and ongoing. The supply of raw materials and finished goods has been severely impacted by shipping challenges – both the availability and price of containers, but also the time taken for deliveries to arrive. “Demand for balloon and party products continues to be extremely high, and on-hand inventories have been severely depleted, so timely arrival of new stock is key. It has been a fairly common occurrence for containers en-route to the UK to take up to twice as long to arrive than they did pre-pandemic, and for dates of arrival to change weekly, making it very difficult to give customers a reliable indication of when new stock will actually be available.

“At Pioneer Europe, as well as absorbing the increased costs of containers we have also been air-freighting some product deliveries (at our cost) for several months. Obviously this isn’t a viable financial proposition across the entire range, so on selected lines we have also been offering customers the option to choose and pay for this delivery method themselves.

“Brexit certainly presented additional challenges at the start of the year – firstly with our team, customers and suppliers all having to establish new systems and documentation for deliveries, and then with many delays/difficulties at customs while new procedures bedded in. For most customers the system is now working far more smoothly, and where any new situations or difficulties arise, we are able to work with our distribution partners to resolve them more quickly.”

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