2020, the Year of the Rat, is finally scurrying away… and most of us couldn’t be more relieved. While we can’t predict what 2021 will have in store, we can keep you informed about one of the biggest holidays worldwide… the Chinese New Year! Also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year is a time of renewal and celebration for billions around the world. It’s also one of the most significant disruptors of the eCommerce supply chain.
If you outsource any part of your business to China, consider this article a must-read. Sit back, relax, and let us walk you through everything you need to know to keep your online store running smoothly in the face of festive chaos (just kidding… kind of). Let’s begin!
The Basics of the Chinese New Year
We’re all familiar with the excitement of bringing in the New Year, and our friends across the (Pacific) pond are no different — except for the precise day on which this magical day is celebrated. While we stick to January 1, China goes by the new moon of the first lunar month. In Gregorian terms, that means that the Chinese New Year, or CNY, can fall any time between January 21 and February 21.
In 2021, the Chinese New Year will take place on Friday, February 12. Officially, the actual holiday lasts one week, starting on the eve of (Lunar) New Year’s Day. Traditionally, however, festivities are known to go on for yet another week, ending with the Lantern Festival — which, in 2021, will land on Friday, February 26.
Although this celebratory period only lasts for about fifteen days, your supply chain can be impacted for weeks — or even months — before and after. On top of factories slowing down in anticipation of the holidays, CNY marks an opportunity for factory workers to reconsider their jobs and seek greener pastures, potentially resulting in a learning curve for when orders start to get processed again. All in all, the Spring Festival can mark a time of delays, quality issues, and even lost packages.
How to Get Through the Chinese New Year
Maneuvering the Chinese New Year may require some flexibility on your end, but it can be made relatively straightforward by taking the following measures.
Develop a Rapport with Your Supplier
It’s easy to think of a business partnership as purely transactional, but the reality is that building a solid, meaningful rapport with your supplier is absolutely invaluable. Establishing an open line of communication not only prevents headaches (or worse!) down the line, but it also gives your supplier a chance to better acquaint themselves with your business and take your needs more seriously.
Speaking of communication, make sure to ask your supplier what their plans are for the Chinese New Year. Will they be shutting down for just one week? Two? How backed up will they be, and what can you realistically expect from them? Once you’re armed with the correct information, you’ll be able to confidently set your own goals and projections for the near future.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Place orders early — at least a few months in advance — to ensure that you have enough inventory to carry you through and over CNY. Remember, there could be potential structural changes and delays on your supplier’s end, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Planning ahead is especially important when your online store sells niche products that are close to holidays or events around the Chinese New Year. One of the most prominent examples of “vulnerable” niches is Valentine’s Day-themed items, as Valentine’s Day almost always falls near CNY.
Stick to the Oldies but Goodies
This tip may not be applicable for everyone, but it is generally not a good idea to expand your catalog in the midst of such a huge holiday. Instead, save your launches and product development for after the last lantern has been released. Similarly, if you know for a fact that you won’t have enough inventory for a certain item (a.k.a. SKU), you can try hiding or discontinuing that product for the time being.
As grand as the Spring Festival has been in the past, there is one unknown factor that we cannot discount — COVID-19. Thanks to strict measures, China has managed to control the virus pretty efficiently, but there is still much uncertainty on how and when the global pandemic will come to an end. While the information we’ve given you is rock-solid, we’re afraid you’ll have to break open a fortune cookie to know what exactly the future holds.
And with that, we wish you a happy Year of the Metal Ox! Metal Oxen are known to be diligent, hardworking, determined, honest, and grounded, which certainly sound like good qualities for any business owner. 新年快乐!
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