With the CBI’s most recent business surveys showing improvement in manufacturing order books, stabilization in retail sales and continued growth in e-commerce, the green shoots in Britain’s economy seem to be emerging at last.
Coming hot on the heels of the latest statistics from the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) – whose 78 members account for over 90% of all new forklifts procured each year in the UK – the intralogistics sector has much to be positive about. Overall forklift sales increased by an encouraging 20% in 2011 compared to 2010, with powered pallet trucks the category showing the strongest improvement (50% year-on-year) and engine counterbalance trucks accounting for more than a third of all sales.
The growth in forklift sales resulted mostly from improved levels of activity in the automotive, road haulage and construction industries, along with the continued rise in online sales, which now account for £1 in every £8 spent in Britain and which continue to rise at more than 13% a year. It was not only forklift suppliers that benefited from the increased buoyancy in these areas, however. Many of the new or upgraded distribution facilities – including those for brands such as John Lewis, Jaguar Land Rover, Net-a-Porter, Tesco, Diageo, Heinz and Ocado – featured automated warehousing solutions, notably the ‘dark stores’ supporting grocery e-tail. In addition, of course, the recovery in selected sectors of the UK economy benefited all kinds of other supply chain product and service suppliers, from racking companies and loading bay equipment firms to software providers and recruitment specialists.
Commented James Clark, Secretary-General of BITA, which co-owns IMHX with Informa Exhibitions, "It would be foolish to claim the general economic backdrop in the UK does not remain challenging, but there are many reasons to be positive for the year ahead. Warehouse and distribution centre capacity will expand to support planned supermarket store openings and the transition of other retailers to greater reliance on e-commerce. We may not see the same high levels of growth in forklift truck orders over the coming months that BITA members enjoyed in 2010 and 2011, but there is every reason to expect that market demand will continue to increase."
IMHX over 80% sold
All this means that exhibitors at IMHX 2013 – which takes place at the NEC from 19-22 March next year – will be well placed to capitalise on the improved economic situation and the resulting increase in the capital expenditure budgets of visitors to the show. Many key deals were agreed – and some even signed – at the last IMHX event in 2010. For example, Chinese truck supplier, Samuk Lift Trucks Ltd, was delighted with the level and quality of leads received at IMHX. Commented Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw, Chairman, "We received numerous fleet enquiries and higher than usual levels of enquiries from smaller users. We received at least three multiple orders as a result of exhibiting."
Rob Fisher, Director of the Materials Handling Group of IMHX’s organiser, Informa, said, "With the addition of the latest firms to sign up for the show – including Vanderlande Industries, Logistex, Palletower, Eblo Seating, Owens Conveyor Company, Chaintec, Twintec Industrial Flooring, Couzens Storage Solutions, ASG Services and Woodway Engineering – over 80% of IMHX 2013 is now sold, even though the show is just under a year away. This demonstrates the confidence exhibitors have in the ability of IMHX to deliver high-calibre leads that result in orders, as well as excellent networking opportunities to meet new clients and enhance business relationships with existing customers."
A number of features will add further interest and appeal to the highly successful IMHX format. The Design 4 Safety competition will return, giving all 350 anticipated exhibitors the opportunity for valuable additional publicity. The exclusive VIP valet parking scheme will also operate once again, allowing top executives to drive straight up to the show’s entrance, have their vehicle parked securely by a professional driver and enjoy access to the Premier Club Lounge with complimentary refreshments and Internet facilities. The AMHSA Zone, hosted by the Automated Material Handling Systems Association, will return to IMHX and will be even larger than at the 2010 show. Visitors to IMHX 2013 will also be able to benefit once again from a free seminar programme on a range of hot industry topics.