Established at the end of 2020, supply chain company Trade Flows could just be the saving grace of New Zealand business amidst border closures and supply delays. Through their partnership with New Zealand Trade Centre (NZTC) and access to a global network of suppliers, the company solely focuses on helping Kiwi businesses survive and thrive, from the small and medium-sized, through to the big guys.
On the back of Covid-19, all aspects of supply chain are stressed, and many Kiwi business owners are struggling to access the goods and materials needed to run their business. Stats NZ data reveals that, due to supply chain issues, the total value of imports is down 13 percent per annum since February 2020, with an 18 percent per annum fall in November 2020 alone.
During the early days of the pandemic, Harry Woods and, now business partner, Nick O’Connor joined forces to help several Kiwi companies who were significantly struggling. Partnering with NZTC, the two were able to source goods and bring them into New Zealand when others weren’t able to. Following months of assisting Kiwi businesses, Woods and O’Connor onboarded long-term friend and strategist Will Cook and Trade Flows Limited was born.
“We’ve all had good commercial experience in different industries,” says Woods.
“I’ve been in international food market export, Nick has been in construction, where he’s actually been importing products and goods into his business for a long time. And Will has a background in marketing and business strategy. So we’re actually quite a good mix of skillsets within the business.”
In terms of procurement, partnering with NZTC has been critical to the success Trade Flows has realised so far. NZTC has a proven track record in sourcing goods for 27 years. It has reach into a number of markets like Asia, Europe and South America and can access a broad range of goods, from medical equipment and packaging to industrial equipment and construction materials.
“However, a lot of small and medium-sized Kiwi businesses simply can’t access that buying power and they just don’t have the influence to be able to access goods,” says Cook.
“They go to their current suppliers and if their supply chain breaks down, they just don’t know where to go,” he adds.
Woods says working with Kiwi businesses might start out as a short-term fix, however the ambition is to develop long-term partnerships, particularly with small to medium businesses that wouldn’t have a procurement function.
Sourcing goods from anywhere can be quite a process, and with many business owners just trying to keep their company afloat, the solution Trade Flows provides is extremely beneficial and time saving.
“You don’t need to rely on your normal supplier and wait six months for what you thought was going to be one month. Trade Flows will find a new solution for you to help any short-term issues you’re having, but hopefully this will develop into a more long-term business partnership..”
The most important thing for the guys at Trade Flows is that Kiwi businesses can trust them to deliver a quality service.
“We’ll spend time with the business getting crystal clear what their needs are, and then we plug it into our vast procurement network.”
Different to other supply chain companies, Trade Flows can access goods and materials when others can’t, then bring them to New Zealand quickly and reliably. They’re able to do this through their sourcing networks and by giving their customers priority access to their regular sea and air freight loads that are booked six-eight weeks in advance.
“A business will come to us and say, ‘we need X, Y and Z,’ and we’ll go away and figure out where we can source it from, be it from China or somewhere in South America or Europe,” says Cook.
“We’ll then pull together a quote, negotiate terms, and provide a spot in one of our regular sea or air freight.”
So far the team have already dealt with a number of large businesses including Fonterra, Whittaker’s and Pepsi New Zealand. Woods says these partnerships showed that even the large-scale players need a helping hand sourcing supplies.
“If Fonterra needs help every now and then, well, Bob’s Bikes certainly needs help every now and then,” he says.
“We found that businesses needed a range of things, from personal protective equipment to packaging products. So that sort of started the conversation, ‘what do businesses need?’”
To the future
Looking forward, Trade Flows are happy to continue assisting with urgent requests, although they aim to build an on-going partnership with Kiwi businesses so they help them in the longer-term. With this in mind, they also offer a specialist trade finance service as a way for businesses to manage their payment terms and cashflow.
In terms of New Zealand’s retail industry, Cook says it has been a testing year. Business owners will remain vulnerable to international markets for the next 12 to 18 months and the more that Trade Flows can do now to help, the better.
“I do get worried about the longer-term implications for New Zealand, but Kiwis are famously resilient and innovative, and the retail sector is the same.”
With consumer behaviour rapidly changing, having the right product in the right place at the right time is critical, which is where some retailers can get caught. Woods says what Trade Flows can do is bring in a range of products that retailers need, so they don’t have to worry about second guessing procurement function.
“If we get it set up really well, efficiently and at scale, we can be a good solution for retailers and business owners across New Zealand.”