25 May 2021

During the first thoughts of a new project or campaign, it’s a question that many of us ask ourselves, especially when looking to maximise the budget. It’s important not to be blindsided by cheap overseas prices, because it’s got to be too good to be true, right?

It’s common knowledge that outside of the UK, labour rates can be significantly cheaper. This leads many of us to think that sourcing from outside the UK is the obvious choice to achieve a more cost-effective retail display. But what about the value of everything else, other than the product?

Achieving good value for money goes way beyond the item price. There are a number of other important factors such as customer service, aftersales care and of course, the overall environmental cost to our planet.

In this article, we explore and compare sourcing from both UK and overseas, looking at the key factors that should be considered.

Sourcing from overseas

Don’t be fooled by competitive rates

One of the main advantages of sourcing from overseas is that many suppliers and manufacturers offer their services at competitive rates, especially in low-cost regions. As manufacturing costs tend to be lower it means that you may be able to achieve a lower unit price for your retail display.

However, there are a number of other factors that can affect any potential cost savings, such as costly international administration, communication, transport costs and duty rates. Read on and we’ll explore these in greater detail.

The pick of the suppliers comes with complexity

Sourcing from overseas potentially gives you access to a greater number of suppliers to choose from. However, working with an overseas supplier can typically be more complex.

There are number of things to consider in order to successfully manage the unique issues and risks associated with sourcing from a remote supplier.

These include:

  • Additional administration and regulations that apply in international markets
  • Customs requirements
  • Cultural and language differences
  • Working across different time zones
  • Quality control risks due to less visibility of the whole process
  • Currency fluctuations
  • Complicated logistics

A greater cost of your time

As most retail displays tend to have bespoke requirements, it’s not just a case of looking for a supplier that has what you need available off the shelf. The process of designing and manufacturing a retail display takes time, many discussions, multiple visual concepts, design approvals and prototyping, even before you get the stage of ordering the quantity you need.

Doing all of this with minimal or no face-to-face contact can be more difficult and can drastically increase the number of hours you will need to commit to the project. Ask yourself, if you had to put a price on communication with a. supplier, what is it worth to you?

Do their standards stack up?

Achieving the standards you’re used to and expect, can be an issue when working with an overseas supplier. What you may consider to be not up to standard could be deemed the best work of somebody else.

Another important factor to consider is wherever your overseas supplier is, they may also have different technical or industrial standards which may or may not meet UK requirements.

Exporting, importing and additional administration

Local tariffs may be applicable when using an overseas supplier. You need to fully understand any export tariffs from the country you are sourcing from and any import duties into the UK (i.e. delivery duties). You’ll also need to factor that the documentation requirements for cross-border processes may be time consuming and complicated.

Sourcing your retail displays from overseas will always end up with far larger shipping/delivery charges to get the displays where you need them to be in the UK. The further away that your potential supplier is then the higher the costs are likely to be.

Road/Rail freight will be an option for the countries closer to the UK, however if you are sourcing from the Far East, then you will be faced with either sea or air freight. The cost of this combined with the potential lead time involved are major factors to take into consideration when putting your critical path in place to ensure that your retail displays are delivered on-time and within budget.

Exporting and importing from overseas, however you plan to do it, also has another, potentially substantial cost. The overall environmental impact on our planet. The carbon footprint of manufacturing overseas and shipping to the UK is unavoidable and likely to be huge. Does this reflect the environmental values of your brand or company?

Getting your hands on your import

When sourcing from overseas, you need to ensure that your delivery costs are clearly explained. Some suppliers may only deliver goods into the UK on a Delivery Duties Unpaid (DDU) basis, meaning that you will potentially need to arrange and pay for collection of your imported retail displays from a UK port before you can transfer them to your local storage/distribution facility.

Probably not ideal if you’re in a rush

Sourcing from overseas will usually always result in longer lead times, as you have to factor time for your goods to be delivered into the UK. Depending on where the supplier is based and what budget you want to allocate for transportation, delivery could potentially add weeks onto your project’s timeline.

Up-front payment
Many overseas suppliers, especially those that are based furthest way, for example in the Far East, will often require payment to be made in full before your displays are made.

Consider the legalities
Overseas suppliers will be governed by different laws and jurisdiction to us here in the UK, so you need to ensure that you are fully aware of all relevant information in your contract in case of any potential disagreement.

What about the macro environment?

Dependant on the location of an overseas supplier, you should pay attention to what’s going on in the current macro environment. There may be an unstable economic and political climate which could cause delays and issues with the overall process of your project delivery.

Sourcing from within the UK

Communication is easier

By sourcing your retail displays within the UK, you will enjoy the benefits of being in the same time zone, making communication a lot easier. You will also have better oversight in the production of your retail displays, giving you ease of mind, a sense of control and the ability to quality check if required.  

Most UK manufacturers enjoy having their clients on site and having them closely involved in a retail project, after all there’s nothing quite like face-to-face meetings. However, 2020 changed the way we work, making business meetings and project catchups more accessible using online tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Together, a mix of these communication channels can result in the most idyllic client/supplier relationship.

Shorter lead times
If speed is what you’re looking for, then sourcing from within the UK will certainly ensure that the overall lead times are considerably shorter. A UK supplier is also generally able to offer a more flexible service when you are faced with getting a display developed within a short space of time.

No additional costs
Other than any agreed development, unit, and delivery costs there are no additional charges that must be accounted for when sourcing from within the UK. Now that’s a big bonus.

Payment terms we all understand
UK based suppliers are more likely to have payment terms that are familiar and far simpler, so there is less risk to your overall purchase. This alleviates the risk of paying 100% upfront like you would potentially need to if you worked with a supplier overseas.

Thumbs up to the legalities

A UK based supplier will be governed by the same laws as your company, therefore it’s a lot easier to understand and be aware of your rights in case of any potential dispute.

It’s great for PR

We can be quite a patriotic bunch, and we like to look after our own economy where we can, so supporting UK based suppliers and manufacturers can reflect well in PR for your own company. Consumers are becoming much more aware of the overall cost of producing and transporting products, so avoiding hefty logistics fees and impact to the environment will likely boost the perception value of your brand and/or company.

It’s like hugging a tree

We’ve already touched on the environmental benefits of using a UK based supplier or manufacturer, but this is such a huge benefit that it certainly qualifies for its own title.

Using a UK based supplier or manufacturer will have a lesser impact on the environment. Fact.

We hope that this article has given you some valuable insight into how you should source your next retail display. Whether local or global an unfavourable sourcing decision can cost you valuable time and money, so careful analysis of the key decision drivers is vital for ultimate sourcing success.

Ready to talk to a retail design specialist?

We’ve been helping brands and retailers create meaningful retail display for years and would be happy to chat you through the different materials to find the perfect solution.

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Contact our team today on info@threepd.co.uk or 01530 839777

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