Eddie Stobart, the only haulage company with its own ‘Spotters’ fan club, said today that it was enjoying record trading, with revenues up to nearly £110m during the last 14 months. CEO Andrew Tinkler said his business had never been busier, and insisted that Stobart was seeing no evidence of a UK recession – either first-hand or among its customers. ‘I'm hearing it on the news but I'm not seeing it in our business at all,’ he said.
It’s been a big year for Stobart – the haulage group (sorry, that should obviously read: ‘the leading multimodal transport and logistics solutions provider’) merged with the Westbury Property Fund back in August and has since been on a spending spree, with acquisitions including former competitor James Irlam & Sons. ‘The last fourteen months have seen a step-change,’ Tinkler beamed proudly today.
Not even the soaring fuel price has thrown Stobart off its stride – largely because it’s been able to pass on most of the rises to customers via a weekly price tracker surcharge.
However, it’s managing to keep them sweet by offering better value for money: it’s increased the utilisation rate of its 1,500 trucks from 71% to 82% (i.e. they’re ferrying stuff around more efficiently) and is only charging clients for the journeys they actually make (rather than per lorry, like most of its rivals).
Admittedly Tinkler’s optimism seems to place him in a minority at the moment, particularly after the latest economic stats were released today. The British Retail Consortium reckons high street spending is now at an eight-year low, while The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors says the vast majority of its members are reporting a fall in house prices. Meanwhile inflationary pressure seems to be building again - rising food costs apparently sent inflation rocketing to 3%, the government said today - which will make it harder for the Bank of England to cut interest rates (stop us if any of this sounds a bit depressingly familiar).
However, Stobart still seems to be ploughing ahead regardless – Tinkler said last week was its busiest ever, as the hot weather drove more of us into the shops and retailers needed re-stocking. In fact, the only bit of bad news today was that Stobart plans to reduce its reliance on its famous fleet of lorries by making greater use of rail and sea freight. Its army of fans will be disappointed to see the famous green lorries start to disappear from our motorways – although on the plus side, trainspotters will think all their Christmases have come at once...