Today is Chinese New Year, the start of the Chunyun Spring Festival, which is when millions of Chinese people traditionally travel home to see their families, sometimes for the only time they will see them that year.
For obvious reasons, this year things look very different. Despite the picture sometimes painted in the media, things are far from back to normal in China. There’s a three-tier policy in place nationally (sounds familiar!) and each province, town and village also have their own rules. Some areas are still under strict lockdown and anyone returning to a rural area needs a negative Covid-19 test, a green ‘health-code’ and a 14-day ‘home observation’ period before they can join in any gatherings.
And, while it’s theoretically still possible to travel, many cities are actually paying migrant workers bonuses and giving them free food and extra privileges to persuade them to stay. Some of the state-owned enterprises in and around Beijing are just refusing permission for all but a few employees to leave, and our team in China estimates that only around 50% of people are travelling this year.
Despite the restrictions though, Chunyun remains a huge event in our suppliers’ calendars, because it still means a production shut-down of up to a month. As a result, it’s a huge event in the Mila calendar as well.
Our supply chain team start planning about six months in advance so that we can minimise disruption in our stock levels and ensure continuity of supply. While I regularly post about Chinese New Year here on the blog, it’s actually an event which we want to pass largely unnoticed by our customers, with no interruption to our market-leading service levels.
This time around, we started forecasting and analysing demand back in August, we placed record production orders in October and we now have more than £3m of stock – equivalent to 60 shipping containers – arriving later this month to fill our warehouse until May.
After so many years navigating the challenges of Chinese New Year, we’re very confident in our 2021 programme. Behind the scenes a huge amount is happening, but for customers it is very much business as usual.