UK OP industry hit by public holiday change

The recent switch of the 2020 Early May Bank Holiday in the UK has left the country’s office supplies wholesalers with stockpiles of products that bear the previous – and therefore now incorrect – date.
Last month, the UK government announced that the public holiday, originally scheduled for Monday 4 May 2020, would be moved to Friday 8 May in order to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. When a similar switch was made in 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of VE Day, the decision was made about 18 months ahead of time, giving plenty of warning to any industries that might be affected.
This time around, the notice period of just 11 months has come too late for many manufacturers and suppliers of dated products such as diaries and planners. Two companies hit by the government’s decision are the leading UK office products wholesalers Spicers and VOW Wholesale. While both agree with the switch in order to commemorate the VE Day anniversary, they are disappointed by the government’s timing.
“It is a shame that the decision to make the change for the right reason was not made earlier since the knock-on effect will be that many consumers will receive diaries with incorrect dates,” said Robert Moore, Group Purchasing Director of Spicers’ parent company SPOT. “While the UK government has stated that it considered the practical implications of the change, it does not appear that any discussions took place with the relevant industry bodies such as the British Print Industries Federation (BPIF), which represent thousands of companies in the industry, including calendar and diary makers.”
Debbie Nice, Merchandise Director at VOW Wholesale, commented: “The announcement caught us out as there hadn’t been any warning of the planned changes – people are so used to the online world where changes can be made instantly and it’s probably easy to forget the implications on traditional forms of communication like print.”
Academic diaries for 2019/2020 were printed and shipped months ago and have been – or are being – supplied to reseller customers in time for the back-to-school season. Calendar year 2020 diaries and planners have also been printed and are en route to the wholesalers’ distribution centres.
There may be some scope for local manufacturers in the UK to reprint or rebind some products, but for the vast majority of items this is not going to be feasible.
“Both time and cost make the reprinting of diaries impossible,” argued Nice. “Office products wholesalers still sell a massive amount of dated products to businesses, and the planning and manufacturing process starts in the previous year.”
Moore agreed: “Quite simply the cost of either debinding and reinserting a section or the complete replacement will be too high for a finished product,” he said. “I know that some companies are talking about using stickers, but even with slim diaries this would be impossible due to the size of the text.”
Moore said that Spicers sympathised with resellers that may have diaries that are incorrect, but reiterated that the cost to either reprint or scrap existing products was just too high. “This is especially true on commercial diaries which have been commoditised over recent years, with cost becoming a key factor,” he noted.
Obviously, sales forecasts and orders for next year had been made well in advance of the government’s Bank Holiday date-switch announcement and time will tell if consumers are reluctant to purchase these ‘incorrect’ products. Moore admitted this was a concern and that any reduction in sales would end in stock – and therefore cost – being written off at the end of the diary selling season.
To try and prevent this from happening, Nice recognises that effective communication to end users will be important. “Consumers will be disappointed with the problem as I think that they won’t understand the complexities of the supply chain for a ‘simple’ product like diaries,” she said. “However, there is plenty of information in the national news on the reason for the date change so this will help with communication.”
She said that the VOW Wholesale sales team “will be prepared” to answer dealers’ concerns about their dated products for next year, adding: “It’s important that both wholesalers help the dealers to communicate this to the end user to ensure that we don’t lose sales.”


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