The 2020 Motor Transport Top 100 has highlighted the success of online retailing even before the Covid-19 pandemic, with parcel carriers such as Hermes, Yodel, DPD and UPS all increasing sales at double the industry average rate of 2.3%.

The figures for the Top 100 come mainly from companies’ 2019 accounts and so are not affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

However, it is clear that the home delivery specialists have been the major beneficiaries as consumers have taken to the internet to do their shopping, and that is likely to be reflected in next year’s Top 100.

2019 was however a tougher year for other sectors of the industry and our figures reveal an average 36% fall in pre-tax profits. And that is also reflected in a fall in average return on sales from 2.33% to 1.45%.

While some companies have struggled, others has bounced back strongly - notably DHL which came back from its £36m loss of the previous year to record a pre-tax profit of £107m.

There has also been further consolidation in the market, notably with Culina’s takeover of Fowler Welch. This will take Culina’s revenue to more than £750m when fully consolidated.

Covid-19 is expected to make the home shopping peak even higher this Christmas. Royal Mail, for example, which saw its pre-tax profit fall from £160m to zero, expects to recruit a record number of temps this year.

Then, straight after that, will come the change in the UK’s trading relationship with the EU. It will be a challenging period, but there is the prospect of more settled trading conditions as 2021 progresses.