BITA President David Rowell shares highlights from the recent BITA AGM, including a very upbeat economic forecast.
When BITA’s board and members gathered in Stratford-upon-Avon for our 29th Annual General Meeting, I’m pleased to report that the atmosphere was extremely positive – a sentiment that was soon to be confirmed by the unveiling of the 2014 Forklift Truck Market Outlook. This is supplied exclusively to BITA members and produced by Oxford Economics, a leading global company providing independent analysis for decision-makers seeking external opinions and evidence-based research.
UK ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE
The Outlook was presented by Jeremy Leonard, Oxford Economics’ head of industry services, and the forecasts contained good news for BITA members, with the UK economy’s performance exceeding expectations since the last report. As a result, the forecast for UK GDP growth has been revised upward from 2.2% to 3%, following stronger than expected GDP growth of 1.7% in 2013.
“The manufacturing recovery is broadening, with key forklift-using sectors such as food and beverages and chemicals shifting to growth mode, joining an already-strong transport sector. A rebound in construction is also driving activity in building materials”, commented Leonard.
Because of this improved economic performance, a 9.3% increase in orders is forecast for all fork lift trucks in 2014. This forecast rise in orders is skewed towards counterbalance, where the increase in orders is estimated at 13.2%, compared to warehouse orders which are forecast to rise by 5.7% – but more balanced growth is forecast after this year.
The Oxford Economics report also includes a bi-annual survey of BITA members themselves, which revealed a generally optimistic outlook among members, broadly reflecting the optimism around the economy as a whole.
In the April 2014 survey, 67% felt more optimistic about general prospects in over the coming 12 months compared to 42% in the September 2013 survey.
Looking at their own firms’ sales, respondents were even more optimistic, with all respondents expecting either modest (89%) or significant (11%) growth in sales. Interestingly, reflecting the continuing growth of online shopping, e-commerce customer fulfilment was often cited by BITA members as a source for growth, with support for customers in this area driving fork lift truck demand.
The latest survey includes a new question on the extent of substitution away from diesel engine trucks towards electric motive power. BITA members’ responses to this question suggest that this is happening, with over 80% of respondents saying they had noticed some substitution, reflecting tighter legislation around diesel engines and a growing awareness of the environmental impact of diesel trucks.
That said, given the favourable trend in counterbalance sales and the upbeat growth forecast in the construction sector, there are good prospects for growth across the whole industry.
Karl Baum also gave a presentation on the new apprenticeship scheme for the industry, developed in partnership with our colleagues in the Fork Lift Truck Association. Since the new scheme was announced, there has been an increase in interest in apprentice placements, with a growing number of employers getting in touch for details around the scheme.
Gary Forster, CEO of this year’s chosen charity Transaid, also gave a presentation on the organisation’s work in logistics and materials handling in the developing world. This was followed by the handing over of a cheque for £2,430, resulting from the fundraising efforts of members at the BITA Ball held the same evening.
The AGM concluded with the presentation of cheques to the value of £1,000 to the niece of Freddy Brown, the founder of Bendi, who has Alzheimer’s disease. The money will be divided between the Worcester Health & Care Trust Charitable Funds and the Alzheimer’s Society.