Eddie Stobart up for sale, and profits almost wiped out at the might DHL Supply Chain – it sounds like an extraordinary year for the logistics industry.
It would be easy to assume that it was a particularly bad year for operators, but our figures tend to contradict this. In fact, the story is one of resilience in the face of challenging market conditions.
Average turnover is up for the companies that made it into our Top 100, with 3.8 per cent growth on the year before. Average pre-tax profit has also risen – 4.8 per cent up on the year before, in fact. This all suggests that companies have been focusing on maintaining profitability. The previous Top 100 survey found a 10.3 per cent increase in turnover, but a 17.7 per cent drop in pre-tax profit.
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There has also been an increase in employment in the industry: on average companies are now employing 4.4 per cent more people than they did a year ago.
There has been a lot of talk about the impact of Brexit on the industry, and there is no doubt that there is potential for significant disruption, but the Top 100 figures demonstrate that road transport has proved remarkably resilient in the face of the challenges so far.
The Top 100 also highlights the ups and downs of the online shopping boom. Parcel carriers such as DPD and Hermes have continued their strong performance both in terms of sales growth and profit margins, on the back of the UK’s love affair with internet retailing. But another giant of this market, Yodel, is still struggling to turn heavy losses back into profit.
The past few years have seen significant consolidation in the industry with Kinaxia continuing to acquire businesses. The latest figures show its turnover is 40 per cent up on the year before.
Eddie Stobart has also made some significant acquisitions, although there is now a question mark over whether the name will survive. Regardless of whether there is a takeover, it still needs to decide if it will retain the Stobart branding when its licence to use it expires next year.
However, even if that happens there will still be a Stobart in the MT Top 100. WS Transportation, which was formed in April 2014 by William Stobart and his son Edward, makes its first appearance this year – coming in at number 87. There could be no better symbol of the resilience of this industry.