A further dip in business growth confidence, pointing towards a less optimistic outlook for the year ahead, has been recorded as part of the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer.
An independent sample of 2,000 van drivers, owners, operators and fleet managers â€“ including tradespeople and service engineers to delivery drivers and entrepreneurs – were asked about their business growth expectations, career goals, challenges and barriers, which has been tracked in Phases since Mercedes-Benz Vans first began recording results in April 2017.
This latest Phase (Phase Three â€“ February 2018) shows a second consecutive fall in business growth confidence amongst the van driving/owning/operating community, representing a dip of five percentage points from the initial Business Barometer phase which suggests a small but sustained confidence dip.
However, this still means that 85% of respondents (February 2018 â€“ Phase Three) feel confident their business will grow over the next 12 months, with confidence and optimism still the prevailing sentiment amongst this hard-working community.
Growth confidence remains highest amongst delivery drivers (90% â€“ a slight fall from 92% in Phase Two) but drops to just 81% amongst tradespeople â€“ a relatively sharp fall of five percentage points. Greater London continues to race away from the rest of the nation in terms of growth confidence â€“ 89% of respondents from Greater London are confident their business will experience growth over the next 12 months compared to just 79% in Wales, 81% in the East of England and 82% in Yorkshire and the West Midlands.
This latest Phase also shows that while Britainâ€™s van drivers, owners and operators are still more likely to think Brexit will improve the prospects of their business (28%) rather than damage it (20%), the gap between the two is closing. For example, in the last Phase (November 2017), nearly a third (32%) felt it would improve prospects and 19% felt it would damage them, demonstrating that the protracted negotiations and continued uncertainty are beginning to chip away at â€˜Brexit beliefâ€™ amongst van drivers, owners and operators.
Encouragingly, over half of all respondents (55%) say their business will be increasing the number of vans they own or operate in the next 12 months â€“ a slight decline from 58% in the previous Phase and 63% of delivery drivers believe the number of vans their organisation operates will increase in the next year (just 4% think fleet size will decrease)
Taking factors such as a growing customer base (53%), a rise in online shopping (37%), and a shift away from heavy goods vehicles (28%) into account, a continuing greater reliance on vans in the future looks more than likely. 43% of respondents believe the success of their business will depend more on vans in the future, and just 4% say their business will be less reliant on vans â€“ almost unchanged from prior Phases.
Steve Bridge, Managing Director, Mercedes-Benz Vans UK Ltd, said: â€œIt is concerning that while confidence is high amongst van owners and operators, the trend is on a decline, and while uncertainty continues to circulate around â€˜Brexitâ€™ and the economy, the knock-on effect on the investment within businesses is potentially stagnant. We continue to monitor the views of the van community, but our hope is that â€˜normal serviceâ€™ is resumed soon, as van owners and operators are a life blood to the United Kingdom, keeping our businesses, and indeed lives, moving.â€
The Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer is a nationwide quarterly survey of businesses large and small, created to help us understand the economic landscape and discover what van owners and drivers need to keep their business moving.