Dionne Redpath, branch network and sales director at Europa Worldwide, reflects on a very successful 2016 for the business which has been running at 25 per cent consignment and turnover growth in the last six months – and how that growth will be a springboard for further success in 2017.
She said: “2016 was a stand-out year for Europa Road, where we reported continuous growth in consignment numbers and increased our number of account managers across the board. Our strategy this year is all about optimising how we perform, building on our recent success, broadening our service into new markets and further adding to our account manager team.
“The challenge for our business as we start the year is to be aware of wider perceptions of volatility in the economy and to assure our customers that we are stronger than ever before, despite what some see as a turbulent currency landscape. The volatility of the exchange rate is apparent, for example, but this is not creating uncertainty in our business.
“We have honest and open conversations about the market and stability with our customers. Our approach is always to be transparent and straightforward and to treat our customers as partners. Our job is to work closely together to support one another in a way which is helpful whilst still providing high levels of service and customer satisfaction.
“We have seen that some of our competitors are paring back because they are wary of change, but we aren’t slowing down at all. We see these challenges as opportunities for us to react competitively, continually developing our service offering and shaping it to the needs of our customers. As a result, our growth continues – with turnover company-wide up by 25 per cent.
“Another potential challenge for road logistics in 2017 is speculation in relation to customs processes. Today, many retailers import from the US or Far East into the UK for processing and re-export into European markets.
“The current infrastructure supports that activity extremely well, but as thoughts turn to the potential re-introduction of export customs clearance processes to service EU markets from the UK, retailers need to contemplate the impact of those changes – specifically considering the time it takes for their customers to receive their goods and the potential additional costs involved.
“That said, again we see these challenges as hurdles we can conquer. For example, Heathrow is Europe’s primary gateway airport, with growing capacity – particularly with the government giving the new third runway the green light late last year. This will bring about new efficiencies which may reduce cost and create time savings when compared to operating though alternative airports elsewhere in the EU.
“A final challenge for 2017 is the customer’s ever-increasing desire to drive out cost. In our opinion, it isn’t about pushing pricing down but rather about developing intelligent solutions which allow for real efficiency savings. At Europa, we are taking our new customer suite to our existing and prospective larger volume customers and explaining how it can reduce routing errors, improve efficiencies through better resource planning and present information in a way which is useful to their businesses.
“It is understandable that businesses based overseas are waiting to see what shape the Brexit plan will take and from that will make decisions about where they will expand their operations. Uncertainty is an enemy to business growth, so at Europa we are doing all we can to emphasise how stable our position is. I predict that once the Brexit plan is cemented, confidence will return and perceived volatility linked to the current climate will reduce.
“2017 will be a year of observation, understanding and deliberation for our sector but it is key that we don’t allow this to prevent innovation, progression and business development – inertia is just an unhelpful as uncertainty.”