Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Chinese New Year! If you've been in the fashion industry for a few years you'll have heard that phrase over and over, but if you're new to the industry and wondering why you've not heard back from your factory in about 6 weeks, here's what you need to know.
What is CNY?
CNY is industry slang for Chinese New Year. It's something that you'll probably come across for about 8 months of the year from your less reliable factories, as they tend to use it as an excuse for delays. The Chinese celebration of New Year is very different to Western culture, as it's a celebration much more than a New Year's Eve party for many of the population. In the fashion industry, factory workers are allowed to take up to 8 weeks off in order to travel back to their place of birth and visit family. I've heard reports from factories that I've worked with that some employees literally walk home over several days or even on some occasions weeks, in order to save money on public transport, or due to overcrowding. I have to be honest in saying that I'm not sure to what extent this affects people and factories I work with are always paid a fair wage, so I'm not sure of the underlying issue here, but it's something that I want to learn more about. If you're working with factories in China, you'll probably find that your merchandise contact is available for most of the holiday, but most likely you won't receive any samples during this time.
When is Chinese New Year?
The actual date of New Year varies each year. This year it was on January 28th and next year it will be on February 16th. As the Chinese calendar is Lunisolar, the date can vary between January 21st and February 20th and the first day of the New Year is on the day of the new moon. The holiday taken by factories varies between regions and will also depend on the factory owners. It's best to ask each factory you're working with when they'll be on holiday and for how long. In order to avoid any disruption during CNY, you need to be asking this question 4 months in advance at the very latest.
What happens during Chinese New Year?
In terms of the industry - not much! As I mentioned it's unlikely that you will receive samples of any kind, or even quotes during this time so you might find yourself unnervingly quiet! So this time of year is great for looking at your brand strategy, designing new styles, or just generally getting on top of filing and all those tasks that get missed during what we call the 'pre-CNY crazy'. In China and other regions that celebrate CNY, the main event is the lantern festival. Depending on the region, the celebration varies, some are more traditional and honour deities and ancestors, while others have a more modern approach and have a meal with their family and exchange money gifts in red paper envelopes. You can learn more on the traditions in this article.
How can I prepare my business for CNY?
The key here is in the planning;
- The majority of fashion labels will plan their range 6 months in advance. When ranging for styles coming into store/online in February/March, this needs to be increased to 8 months.
- Even January and April need to be considered earlier if possible as well, due to the pre/post-CNY rush.
- Also keep in mind that the ports will be shut, so even if your stock is ready, you need to make sure that the port is still open so that you can still ship the goods.
- Make sure that the factory are aware of your timelines and also get as much information as possible on what will be closing when - often the dye mills close first, so it's a good idea to prioritise any lab dips.
- Keep a close eye on your timelines and in particular your critical path, chase any styles that look as though they are falling behind to make sure things stay on track.
Hopefully, this all makes sense and offers some useful and actionable advice to prevent delays to your range next CNY? Or, if it's got you into a bit of a panic and you're thinking 'a critical WHAT?' don't worry! There's plenty more posts coming! You can sign up to the mailing list to get notified when the posts go live and also get some amazing (if I do say so myself) free resources.
Did you have any issues this CNY? Or maybe you were one of the ones celebrating? I'd love to hear about it in the comments box below.
Happy Year of the Rooster!