The Year 2021 proved to be extremely challenging for most, with its aftermath still felt in 2022. The biggest challenge faced within our industry, and the rest of the world, was the devastating effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic. While many families experienced loss and isolation from their loved ones, enormous strain was placed on most businesses. As in most manually laboured businesses, staff shortages due to illness or self-isolation have had an enormous effect on our potential productivity. Due to this, we have been forced to adopt new ways of working, while also adapting our production and output levels. Furthermore, as many workplaces moved to ‘Working from Home’, fashion trends in the UK have also gone through significant changes. Within the Second-Hand clothing industry we have seen a decrease in ‘Fashion Items’ and a gradual increase in ‘stay-at-home’ lounge wear, reflecting the change of lifestyle during the pandemic. This has had a negative effect on the quality and diversity of the rags clothing merchants and processors have been receiving. Due to this larger amounts of rag have had to be purchased, processed and sorted, to achieve the same amount and high quality of stock expected by our customers. Further to this, staff shortages were felt particularly hard within the transport industry. Both Covid-19 and Brexit had a devastating effect on driver shortages. While many qualified, HGV drivers returned to their home countries, many more were forced out of work through the track-and-trace system and self-isolation. Due to this, securing bookings had become increasingly difficult. The Shipping Industry suffered another devastating blow with the Suez Canal Blockage in March 2021, when the 400-meter vessel - the Ever Green became grounded for six days. The blockage of the canal caused a hold-back of over 300 vessels, resulting in billions of dollars of hold-back of trade, prolonged stock unavailability and delayed returning of empty containers. As a result of these hold-backs shipping lines and haulage companies, already struggling with staff shortages, were also faced with a lack of empty containers, resulting in freight and haulage cost increases for businesses like ours. As a business, we have faced further challenges from the pressures experienced within our African market. High exchange rates against the British Sterling have made it increasingly difficult for buyers to pay for imported goods. These financial struggles are exacerbated further by the raising duty and freight charges. Furthermore, due to the widespread effects of Covid and lockdowns, local economies had entered gone into a prolonged standstill period, making it particularly difficult for wholesalers to sell their goods. Due to these issues demand for imported goods had dwindled.
Most recently, an indirectly huge blow was dealt to most businesses by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The financial aftershock of sanctioning the former Soviet State, has seen a steep increase in prices of imported goods and most notably oil. This in turn has exacerbated the inflation rate and fuel prices to historically high levels, hence increasing overhead costs exponentially. The above is an overview of the challenges we have been facing for over two years. Our business has, and continues to do its best to maintain our quality of product and service, despite tackling a number of issues beyond our control. We aim to do so to the best of our ability while supporting our customers along the way.