Whether called ‘baubles’ or ‘balls’ by those who buy them, billions of brightly coloured spherical decorations will festoon Christmas trees around the world this year. Some are made from fragile glass, some from wood and others from plastic.
But where do these plastic balls come from? How do they make their way to our homes? Who’s involved in the process?
Let’s find out by following a ball from raw beginning to dangling decoration…
Our journey starts in Mexico, one of the world’s biggest producers of raw plastic. Mexico has over 4,100 plastic-producing companies and exported over $9 billion (USD) worth of plastics in 2020 alone.
Mexico makes the plastic pellets that get shaped eventually into the colourful ornaments that will join tinsel, small Santa figurines and edible chocolate treats to adorn our Christmas trees.
Once these pellets are exported from Central America, where next for our budding bauble?
From Mexico, those pellets are imported into China, one of the largest manufacturers of plastic goods in the world.
In 2020, this Asian exporting giant shipped an estimated $2 590 billion (USD) worth of products abroad and a lot of Christmas decorations were in those containers!
So, it’s here that the pellets are heated and moulded into the shape we recognise. However, at this point it’s only a plain plastic ball! And while many balls are coloured in China, our particular ball doesn’t get decorated until it reaches its next destination…
Before it can dazzle and delight, our basic bauble needs to be coloured and beautified to make it shine and sparkle.
So, it’s taken to Vietnam where the manufacture and export of paint and coatings has increased by 200% over the last year. The Vietnamese paint and coating industry has seen huge investments recently and has become one of the fastest growing industries in the South East Asian region.
It’s here that our ball is dipped and decorated, gilded and glamorised, sprayed and spruced up, transforming a dull plastic orb into the twinkly delight we all know and love.
This garnishing may include the familiar green and red base coats and gold painted stars – the iconic Christmas colours that get us feeling festive.
Our freshly primped bauble is now ready to hang, so it’s time to get it packaged for distribution…
4. Pack It In
Off it goes to the Netherlands, a key European trader thanks to its seaports and international airports.
Here, in a land famous for windmills, cheese and tulips, our bauble is packed into an attractive box and becomes part of a global packaging market expected to be worth $1 billion (USD) by 2023.
Safely protected, our gorgeous yet fragile ornament is now ready to hit the shelves in the UK, so off it goes again…
Our Christmas ball, now boxed up along with six or twelve of its equally attractive siblings, waits to be plucked from a shelf by eager hands and taken home to grace a beautiful tree with its lustrous splendour.
Unsurprisingly, the production, manufacture, packaging and export of Christmas baubles increase significantly in the lead up to Christmas, and our ball is a part of that busy process.
Research shows that the average UK household spends over £700 more in December than in other months, and this change in consumer spending dictates the behaviour of the whole supply chain.
And it’s at this point that we realise that the supply chain hasn’t finished yet...
Eventfully, this bauble’s relationship with its new owners will come to an end through disenchantment or breakage. It will either finish up being replaced by something more attractive or suffer accidental damage – perhaps at the patting paws of a curious cat.
Either way, it’ll end up in the trash, from there to be recycled – either within the UK or when exported as scrap plastic to common Importers like Malaysia, the USA and Germany.
There, scrap plastics are broken down and reused, perhaps to end up as another Christmas bauble, on another tree, in another country, to the joy and delight of another family.
And so the cycle continues…
Our Christmas ball just travelled from Mexico to the UK via the Far East and Europe - a distance of some 32,000 kilometres! That’s certainly something to think about the next time you hang one on a Christmas tree and step back to admire your handiwork.
Stenn provides finance for every stage of the above journey, helping to make this ball’s manufacture, export and distribution by Christmas a reality.
Furthermore, Stenn’s financial support can protect the businesses in the supply chain, any of whom can face unexpected delays in payment. After all, no one wants to buy or sell Christmas baubles in January!
Similar fluctuations in supply chains happen throughout the year, not due just to unexpected epidemics like Covid-19 but because national holidays and celebrations cause seasonal surges in demand.
If deferred payments prevent Suppliers from fulfilling their roles in the bauble’s journey, Stenn can provide them with immediate liquidity to speed the ball on to the next link in the chain. This is a win-win situation for both Suppliers and Buyers. Suppliers receive their funds now, rather than waiting months, and Buyers are able to negotiate substantial discounts for paying invoices immediately.
Stenn is proud of the part it plays in helping supply chains to move millions of products around the world. Manufacturers, Suppliers and logistics companies all strive to deliver on time and make supply match fluctuating demand. The creation and delivery of this tiny Christmas ball depends on a vast, interlocking, global infrastructure of which Stenn is proud to be a part.
To find out more about how we can help you, have a chat with our friendly team today.
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