MT examines the financial performance of the UK logistics industry ahead of challenge of Covid-19 and a new trading relationship with the rest of Europe.
The success of online retailing is clearly underlined in this year’s Top 100 with parcel carriers such as Hermes, Yodel, DPD and UPS all increasing sales at double the industry average rate of 2.3%.
And it this sector that again performs strongly when it comes to profits. DPD and UPS are well ahead of the other major players in terms of return on sales, while Hermes and FedEx also performed strongly. Even Yodel has made progress in cutting its massive losses.
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The figures for this year’s 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.
While last year was good for home delivery, it was tougher 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%.
However, this is not an across-the-board fall, there are one or two companies that reported heavy losses. For example, Royal Mail’s UK business saw its pre-tax profit fall from £160m to zero as it struggled to adapt to the decline in the letters market.
And Eddie Stobart Logistics showed a pre-tax loss of £239 million. However, it expects to be back in profit this year. Not only that, it secured the Stobart name, paying £10m to former parent Stobart Group, which plans to change its name to something different next year.
But 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.
One clear impact of Covid-19 is that fact that a few companies have been slower than normal to file their latest accounts at Companies House. They are listed in the notes.
Operators face a challenging few months. Covid-19 is expected to make the home shopping peak even higher this Christmas. Royal Mail, for example, 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.