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BITA members optimistic on economic prospects and sales

BITA members are optimistic about the economic outlook for the forklift truck sector, with the UK economy exceeding expectations and GDP growth revised upwards.

The latest qualitative survey, carried out for BITA by Oxford Economics, indicates that the majority of respondents expect market conditions to remain constant, 17% thought they would improve, and none expected conditions to deteriorate.

The members’ survey, which is a key part of BITA’s exclusive biannual economic forecast for the forklift sector, shows that when it comes to expected sales the vast majority of BITA members are expecting orders to rise modesty (83%) or significantly (17%) – with none expecting sales to fall. Regarding forklift prices, 83% expected that prices would rise modestly, reflecting growing demand.

The broader economic survey revises upwards the forecast for UK GDP growth, from 2.7% to 2.8% which gives the UK the highest forecast growth of all the G7 countries, including the US.

Jeremy Leonard, Oxford Economics’ Head of Industry Services said: “We expect that 2015 will be the year when total shipments finally break through the pre-recession sales peak, with total shipments of 30,399 units forecast, representing a growth of 10%. Orders are also forecast to grow by 6.8% to a total of 32,087, above their 2007 peak.”

Performance in the warehouse sector is the real success story. In 2014 total warehouse shipments grew by 11.5% compared to the forecast of 10.2% and orders came in ahead of expectations at 17.5% versus the 11.7% forecast. This has resulted in the forecast for 2015 being upgraded as consumers’ rising disposable income, related to falling petrol and energy costs, has facilitated increased spending so boosting online shopping and driving the warehouse and distribution sectors.

In comparison counterbalance shipments since the last report have been relatively disappointing, but this comes off the back of previous strong growth. In 2014 shipments grew by 6.1% compared to the forecast of 6.9%. This has resulted in the forecast for 2015 being downgraded slightly, but counterbalance orders and shipments are expected to begin picking up in the second half of 2015 as the improving economy drives new orders and confidence expands in manufacturing, key to counterbalance orders.

James Clark, Secretary-General of BITA, comments: “The forklift sector is reflecting the wider sentiment that the economy is improving and the much more positive economic outlook. Hopefully this really will be the year that total shipments exceed the pre-recession sales peak.

“The contrast between counterbalance and warehouse bookings is interesting as warehouse surges ahead off the back of the continued growth of online shopping and rising disposable income. Manufacturing confidence seems to be lagging behind that of the economy generally but hopefully as this improves we will see counterbalance shipments beginning to climb, supported by the new generation of ultra-low emission trucks coming through, and hybrid versions which can be used inside and out.”

The Forklift Truck Market Outlook includes a detailed overview of sector by sector performance, both in terms of forklift product categories and customer business divisions. It is prepared for BITA by independent economic consultancy Oxford Economics and is available exclusively to BITA members as one of the key membership benefits.

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