UK optimism PHOTO: FILM LONDON
The UK materials handling industry can look forward to a better 2021 but must remain resolute in the face of the ongoing pandemic and the bedding in of post-Brexit trade deals, according to the UK Material Handling Association (UKMHA).
The new association, forged from an alliance between the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA), together with their co-owned subsidiary, Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS), says a quick recovery in the UK materials handling industry from the economic upheaval suffered in 2020 is unlikely - but there is good reason to be optimistic for later in the year.
However, any return to pre-pandemic levels of business is unlikely until 2023 at the earliest.
In its latest UK Forklift Truck Market Outlook
, prepared for BITA, the Oxford Economics consultancy says the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination program offers hope that lockdown restrictions could start to be eased relatively quickly, while initial disruption due to the new trading arrangements with the EU might settle down by the second quarter as firms adjust to the new procedures.
"Lifting restrictions on social consumption, and the associated boost to confidence, would allow a strong recovery to take root from Q2 2021. There are many uncertainties around production levels and the logistics of rolling out such a large program, but we judge this timeline sufficiently plausible that we have adopted it as our baseline assumption," say the report authors.
So, while the prospects for later in 2021 look brighter, there is still likely to be a rocky period to negotiate before any economic benefits from the vaccine program begin to be felt.
"Against this backdrop, we expect bookings will continue recovering in 2021, following their sharp slump in the first half of ," adds the report. "However, with economic activity remaining below its pre-pandemic level of activity in both 2021 and 2022, we do not expect bookings to surpass their 2019 levels over this forecast horizon."
Tim Waples, chief executive, UKMHA, says: "Verification of a tough 2020 for the materials handling industry was hardly unexpected, and the reintroduction of lockdown has delayed recovery - at least in the short term. Nevertheless, I choose to focus on the positive aspects of the report and, with the hope that the vaccine program will spearhead recovery, there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic for later in the year.
"With the UK now getting to grips with life outside the EU, hopefully we can soon return to as near normal relationships in terms our trade with Europe. Being able to plan with conviction for the year ahead will be very important."