(last updated July 2019)
What has been happening in the removals sector?
The removals sector is heavily dependent on the health of the housing market and the economy as a whole. There was strong demand for removals services until 2008, when the housing market all but collapsed and the economy took a significant downturn. The number of people moving to a new home fell dramatically and removals firms targeting people moving overseas also suffered from a fall in the number of people buying property on the continent. The closing years of the 2000s and early 2010s were tough for the industry, but government support for house buyers subsequently helped to stimulate the market.
An improving economic situation from the second half of 2013 until the first half of 2015 helped to boost the housing market and the number of transactions continued to increase annually despite the economy slowing in the second half of 2015 and throughout 2016. The number of housing transactions slumped again in 2017 after the vote in 2016 to leave the EU. Little change is forecast for 2018, for which the number of housing transactions is expected to be lower than 2016 and 2017, and well below the peak achieved in 2007.
The sector has become intensely competitive and recent years have seen established removals businesses being affected by eastern Europeans who work with a hired van and a mobile phone from locations such as public car parks. This has led to fierce undercutting on rates. Customers have become used to paying low rates for a job as a result. High fuel prices and road tax increases have squeezed margins even further, leading to the failure of some removals businesses. Margins improved somewhat as fuel prices fell back in 2015/2016 and, despite rises in 2016/2017, prices remain lower than their highs of 2011 to 2014. The vote to leave the EU may also benefit the domestic removals market if fewer eastern Europeans come to the UK to set up in competition but the international removals market is likely to suffer as it becomes less attractive for UK citizens to move to Europe.
Many removals firms offer a comprehensive service to customers, including packing and storage where required. Others have moved into specialist 'niche' areas where higher rates can sometimes be charged.
Keeping up to date with the removals sector
Joining a trade association is an excellent way of keeping up with developments in your industry. The removals industry is represented by the British Association of Removers (BAR) which offers a wide range of benefits and services to members. BAR members are automatically made members of The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme and can use the TPO dispute resolution service to sort out complaints.
The National Guild of Removers and Storers (NGRS) also represents the industry in the UK. Members of the NGRS participate in the Removals Industry Ombudsman Scheme, which considers and adjudicates on complaints about removals companies.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) represents the haulage industry generally.
Visit the BAR, NGRS and RHA websites for further information.