The UK party trade has taken a practical and no-nonsense approach to the news that a third lockdown has closed all non-essential retail across the UK for at least the next six weeks.
With parties and events now almost impossible to hold, the fancy dress and costume sector continues to be the most at risk, with many retailers closing their doors temporarily to make the most of the government’s various packages of financial help, if they are applicable. Balloon deliveries are able to continue operating on a click-and-collect or delivery-only basis, depending on the local Trading Standards regulations.
What this all means for the party industry for the next few months is difficult to predict – but we asked some of you to give it a go anyway…
“The darkest hour is before dawn. The current situation is bleak at best but we now know there is an end in sight and within reach,” revealed Palmer Agencies’ sales and marketing director Sergio Battaner. “Christmas trading was below par but by no means a dead loss. Santa costumes were more popular than ever and we were sold out of most of our styles entering into December.”
“We know this will have an impact on retailers,” he continued. “At this moment in time, I am not even sure Book Week will be safe. I think we need to be realistic and plan for Spring if not Summer – but in the meantime, we will continue to offer retailers both in the UK and Europe a top class service and seamless deliveries from our Brexit-free warehouse in Belfast. No paperwork, no customs declarations, no hassle!”
As the UK agent for both Boland Party and I.T.I (UK), Mark Brett is well-placed to take an overview of the lockdown’s effect on the UK market.
“The Christmas period was alright, but not all were able to trade and I think the mixed messages that were being sent out from the government were not especially helpful. I do think retailers will be lot better prepared this time, as will consumers, who now know exactly where they can get their party supplies from.”
He continued: “There is an upside and a downside to the fact that it is January. The upside is that except for Valentine’s Day there is very little going in the next two months. The downside is that there is very little going on! I know the chancellor has unveiled more grants but I also know that previously a number of retailers were quite literally just outside the bands and got nothing, so it’s likely that the same will happen again. The online operators will also miss out on there being no Carnival as a number of them have done well in Europe with Carnival over the last couple of years.”
With his Boland Party hat on, Mark points out that the business has plenty of stock and a whole host of new product with its Party Safe range. “It’s really tough when everyone is in the same boat,” he said. “But we will do whatever we can together and we will come out of it together. I can see a possible ray of sunshine in early summer when, if we are out the worst of it, I am absolutely certain there are going to be some big parties!”
Over at BAPIA, chairman John Bowler was equally pragmatic about life in lockdown, saying: “I think we have to look at it from a general point of view and trust that this is the best way to contain the spread of Covid especially with the new variants that are so quickly transmitted.”
“Many BAPIA members were able to continue trading through the Christmas period, albeit with a greatly reduced order book, but sadly there have been a large number who had to stop trading and this third lockdown has added to that misery,” he added. “I believe that we will see more businesses close for what we hope will be a short-term basis until this pandemic is over. But with Valentine’s Day approaching those who are able to continue trading could experience their busiest Valentine’s Day ever!”
Of course, BAPIA has been committed to supporting its members as much as possible throughout the pandemic, offering a series of free webinars and a number of paid social media marketing campaigns which help to generate business for BAPIA members.
“I think the answer to this will be to have everybody vaccinated and eradicate the virus,” John continued. “Beyond that, I want to see our members and the industry in general benefit from an amazing Valentine’s Day followed by a year full of weddings, parties, celebrations and corporate promotions that make it the best year ever for the balloon and party industry!”