The pallet network sector saw a 6.3% volume growth in the first quarter of 2023, compared to the same period in 2019, with seven million pallets delivered and B2C demand up by 32%.

Announcing the sector's latest first quarter results, Paul Sanders (pictured), chairman of the Association of Pallet Networks (APN), said they indicated a "strong and encouraging" start to the year.

He added that the sector is also witnessing "significant and lasting" shifts in customer preference since 2019, pointing to home deliveries, which he said have become a significant and growing part of network portfolios, delivering a 32% growth since Q1 2019. This in turn has driven the growth in the use of quarter pallets, which is up 11%.

Sanders said: "The home delivery market was characterised by strong growth pre-pandemic, and then fuelled immensely by lockdown and home working. However, we can now see that this is a continuing trend, and is changing the profile of network deliveries, both in location and pallet size.

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He added: "The past three years were characterised by surges in volume, first from lockdown and then from pent up demand. However, we can now see that there is still real and significant growth in the
sector, despite the uncertainties of the economic outlook.”

However, inflationary factors, including higher energy and finance costs are also visible in the figures, Sanders noted, with the use of economy services having grown by 21%.

He said: “Business is conscious of spending in these difficult economic times. Our members’ economy services offer excellent value to help customers lower transport costs.”

However, Next Day services still account for more than 60% of all pallets delivered, with 16% of next day
consignments having a timed delivery window.

“Networks offer a wide range of delivery options, and it is a healthy sign that customers are differentiating between the freight which must be delivered as rapidly as possible and that which can have a more flexible delivery date. This keeps costs manageable for the customer and facilitates better and more environmentally friendly trailer utilisation by members,” Sanders said.