Star Outdoor on how to maximise a brand’s presence

Star Outdoor

Star Outdoor’s Mark Star explains the impact of supply chain issues on his business and how customers can maximise their brand presence during the growing outdoor dining movement.

Customers who have attempted to buy consumer products in the past two years are likely familiar with the severe supply chains delays that have disrupted shipping times and postal deliveries from everything including clothing items and cosmetics to kid’s toys and furniture.

While COVID-19 has created and exposed broken links in the global supply chain, Star Outdoor Managing Director Mark Star is navigating those hurdles and finding ways to alleviate production delays in the outdoor branding industry.

“Before the pandemic, there was a lean towards ‘just-in-time stock’ for outdoor branded products such as café umbrellas, wind barriers, and a-frames, as there was no need to preserve storage,” says Mark.

“The pandemic has changed this outlook. Now that supply is unreliable, it has taken away the advantage of ordering as you require product. Instead, if you leave ordering too late, businesses won’t get the products they require until months down the line.”

Multiple national lockdowns have continued to slow or even temporarily stop the flow of raw materials and finished goods, disrupting manufacturing as a result.

“As countries around the world imposed COVID travel restrictions, this caused a lack of access and long wait times for shipments at major ports around the globe,” says Mark.

“And these same COVID restrictions in ports have meant fewer workers being able to handle shipments.”

The result is a backlog of shipments and supplies waiting to be delivered to distribution hubs, congestion of shipping containers in destination ports, and a lack of containers in origin ports, further limiting the capacity of shipping companies.

For Star Outdoor, this meant a lack of supply and rising shipment costs.

“One of the more convoluted issues we’re facing at the moment is that the fabric we use for our outdoor umbrellas is made overseas in Spain,” Mark says.

“That fabric then gets shipped to China and is made into canopies for the umbrellas.”

“But as we know, Europe has had its own issues with COVID, so production at the factory for the fabric has been severely reduced and delayed.”

Australia was not the only country that responded to indoor hospitality density restrictions with extended trading outdoors, resulting in high demand for shade in alfresco dining across the globe.

“The demand for acrylic fabrics has skyrocketed, and the supply from factories has gone down, which makes [supplying customers with product] quite difficult. In previous years, our factory in China would already have the stock we need,” he says.

Mark says before the pandemic, freights costs for a 40-foot container from China to Brisbane were about $1500. Twelve months later, that same container costs $10,000.

“Steel and aluminium prices have also risen drastically, which has really affected production pricing,” he says.

Mark adds that as prices go up and wait times get longer, everyone is feeling the effects of the post-COVID supply chain struggle.

“It saddens me to hear the disappointment on the other end of the phone when customers realise how long production will take, as it’s something we can’t change,” he says.

“The challenge for companies will be to make their supply chains more resilient without weakening their competitiveness.

“I believe the key to a successful supply chain is making promises you can deliver on, and that’s something our company stands by.”

Thanks to the rising popularity of outdoor dining as consumer confidence bounces back, Mark says companies need to consider using branding on outdoor stock to avoid any further interruption to their business which may already be suffering.

He says outdoor advertising offers the perfect creative canvas for companies to deliver their brand message to targeted audiences with ease and efficiency. They key however, is forward planning.

“In order to secure supplies for one of our larger customers that required outdoor branded products in April, we placed that order back in December so it would arrive on time,” Mark says.

“We recommend that businesses do the same and be more proactive and think about their branding needs months ahead of schedule.”

Mark says the company tries to educate its clients on current supply chain issues, and that businesses should keep the possibility of sourcing items locally front of mind like Star Outdoor plans to do in the coming months.

“In the coming year, we’ll start to incorporate onshore production into our regime, which I believe will have a positive impact on the market as businesses start to focus on how they can manufacture more products here in Australia,” he says.

“The timeliness and quality of our products are more important to us than paying premium price for onshore production. We’ll sacrifice the extra costs to guarantee a secure supply for our clients.”

In the meantime, Star Outdoor is stocking outdoor branding products with a generic plain black colouring, such as black canopies and black inserts on wind barriers, which the company can ship out the next day.

“We make sure we always have plenty of these products in stock, so if a client is desperate and they can’t wait to get their logo printed on something, we can provide them with a product, so they have something to display to embody a professional café. And then later they can get the tops branded,” he says.

In addition, Star Outdoor has increased its stock of umbrella and wind barrier frames by 50 per cent.

“This allows for a shorter turnaround time, as when canopies with printed fabric are made and flown in, we can add them to the frames we already have. We can turn around those types of orders within three or four weeks,” says Mark.

“We also have an in-house graphics team, which allows us to get our clients graphics and artwork completed quickly, which also shortens the process and helps get orders out on time.”

While Australia’s hospitality industry has faced its own challenges throughout the global pandemic, Mark says Star Outdoor has remained committed to its clients and delivering solutions that achieve the most added value for their businesses.

“We’re a family-owned business, a lot like many cafés and roasters, and we have a passion for what we do, which is why we will continue to supply our clients with the best outdoor branding products sold in the Australian market,” he says.

“We want everyone in the café industry to know, you’re not alone. We’re all part of the hospitality family and we need to continue to encourage each other to persevere and look forward to better times ahead.”

“2022 is the year to be seen and grow your business. This is the hospitality industry’s opportunity to make the most of a cultural movement wanting to get back into the community and enjoy themselves.”

For more information, visit www.staroutdoor.com.au

This article appears in the April 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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