Trends and News for SMBs | December

Trends and News for SMBs | December
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Keep your business up to speed with the latest news.

Panama Canal prepares for surprise easing of restrictions

Better-than-expected November rainfalls will allow the Panama Canal Authority to ease transit restrictions as of January 2024 – providing a much-needed breathing space for global supply chains.

The authority plans to increase the number of daily transits from 22 to 24 as of next month instead of further reducing capacity — as shippers had feared. Several months of drought affecting the Gatun Lake, which feeds the canal, had led the authority to announce plans to reduce transit slots to 20 for January and 18 for February.

Transit and draft restrictions at the canal have become an increasingly critical issue for container shipping in recent days. Attacks on container shipping in the Suez Canal have led many leading ocean carriers to divert vessels away from the Red Sea.

October 2023 was the driest October on record for the canal. However, rainfall levels for November beat predictions and water saving measures have also proved effective at maintaining levels in the lake.

So far, bunker carriers and tankers have been more affected by restrictions at the canal than container ships. However, analysts have started to warn that this could change in 2024. “Liner shipping has faced minimal consequences from transit reductions, but has primarily been affected by draught reductions,” said Christian Roeloffs, cofounder and CEO of Container xChange.

“At present, container shipping trade flows remain unencumbered. However, anticipating increased pressure on the US East Coast, the Suez Canal and the Cape Horn in the coming months, shippers are likely to explore alternative routes to circumvent potential disruptions.”

Liners have responded to the restrictions by redirecting volume to the West Coast, blank sailings, longer transit times and imposing surcharges. 

While the easing of restrictions is good news for shippers, much will depend on two factors in 2024. One is whether favorable weather trends will continue to reduce the impact of drought and allow further lifting of restrictions. Another is whether carriers consider the Suez Canal a safe option for rerouting vessels – taking pressure off the Panama Canal.


Buyers gear up for Japan’s leading cosmetics trade fair

Cosmetics buyers are gearing up for Japan’s trend-setting flagship cosmetics trade show. Cosme Tokyo starts on January 17, 2024, at the Tokyo Big Sight Expo Centre and is part of Cosme Week Tokyo, a series of six specialized shows covering the cosmetics and beauty industries.

While Cosme Tokyo itself is dedicated to finished products, the week also features Cosme Tech Tokyo which focuses on ingredients, packaging, and manufacturing. Inner Beauty Tokyo specializes in nutritional supplements and foods and Esthec Japan focuses on salon skin care.

Like its neighbor South Korea, Japan’s high-quality cosmetics manufacturing standards and ingredients and a demanding domestic market has led to a growing cosmetics industry and rising exports of cosmetics and beauty products. Japan was a latecomer when it came to adopting the trends towards natural and organic ingredients in beauty products but is increasingly turning towards sustainable and locally sourced products.

“Recently, we have seen the rise of Japanese cosmetic products using regional and traditional ingredients such as horse oil, salmon collagen, mild rice bran water from Kyoto or Mt Fuji water,” said the Cosme Week organizers.

Japan is the world’s second largest cosmetics market. The show also attracts large numbers of international exhibitors, especially from South Korea.

The 2023 edition of Cosme Tokyo saw slightly reduced attendances like many other trade fairs in the wake of the pandemic, but still attracted 29,500 visitors.

At the 2023 edition of the fair, Asian brands exhibiting at Cosme Tokyo presented science-driven cosmetic products such as Japan’s Lady Bio AI Mist, a water-based multipurpose spray developed in cooperation with the University of Tokyo.

In 2022, Japan was the world’s fifth largest cosmetics exporter, accounting for $5 billion of exports but fell behind South Korea, the second largest exporter with $6.7 billion.

Japanese cosmetics and makeup companies are increasingly targeting men and are trying to catch up with the global success of Korea’s popular K-Beauty products.


Sustainability will dominate Hong Kong Toy & Games Fair

Sustainability is set to be a major theme at the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair – which celebrates its 50th edition this year. The event will be held from January 8 to January 11, 2024, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and will run alongside Click2Match, an online smart business matching platform which will operate from January 1 to January 18. The online platform aims to provide an extended forum for buyers and sellers to connect outside the event itself.

A major part of the event will be the Green Toys zone – where exhibitors will demonstrate eco‑friendly products. There will also be a smart-tech toys and games zone to showcase toys which can be operated via mobile apps, or which incorporate technologies such as AI or robotics.

Hong Kong was the world’s eighth largest toy exporter in 2022 and is also a major contract manufacturer for overseas manufacturers.

Many of the exhibitors will represent Asian toy manufacturing powerhouses such as Mainland China, South Korea, and Taiwan, as well as exhibitors from India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore.

The show will run at the same time as the Hong Kong Baby Products Fair and Hong Kong International Stationery & School Supplies Fair at the same venue. The three events are expected to attract more than 2,500 global exhibitors.

A new zone at the event – the Collectible Toys zone – will focus on the collectibles market, while a Brand Name Gallery will showcase products from major international brands such as Eastcolight, Hape, Welly, Classic World, Rastar, Masterkkidz and AURORA.

The Hong Kong Baby Products Fair will present baby products such as strollers and baby gear, clothing, maternity products, bedding and furniture, skincare, and bath products.


Indonesia prioritizes becoming a major manufacturing hub 

As Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo enters his final year in office, he hopes to further one uncompleted mission – help turn Indonesia into a manufacturing hub to rival countries like Vietnam or India.

Last year, Indonesia’s economic growth reached a nine year high of 5.3%. But much of that growth has been dependent on the boom in prices for commodities such as palm oil, copper, bauxite, and tin. Jokowi, as the President is widely known, is determined to steer the economy away from its dependence on raw materials and help it benefit from Western companies’ desire to diversify supply chains away from China.

This year, Indonesia jumped an impressive 10 spots in the Institute for Management’s  World Competitiveness Ranking, reaching 34th place.

Jokowi, who is prevented by constitutional limits from running for a third term, is enjoying approval records close to 80% in recent polls — mostly due to his canny handling of the economy.

One of Jokowi’s most successful economic decisions has been to ban exports of nickel ore. This helped Indonesia avoid the trap many commodity-rich developing economies face as refining, processing, and manufacturing take place abroad. The ban on exporting nickel ore has succeeded over the last five years as major companies in areas like electric vehicles and batteries have created new supply chains inside Indonesia to take advantage of the archipelago’s abundant reserves of this vital mineral. Jokowi is now hoping to repeat the same feat with other key manufacturing sectors such as textiles and consumer tech.


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