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logistics and retail updates

This series of updates aims to bring relevant government and industry statistics to life. As part of our assignments, we often help clients source both internal and external data, and then use it to drive logistics modelling, benchmarking, budgeting ...and action plans! To find out how we can help you by ringing 01295 758875 or contact us. If you'd like an alert when a fresh update is posted, ask us to email you or follow on Twitter:


30 July 2015: Time to look outside?

Earlier this month Croner published this year's Distribution & Transport Rewards - always an excellent source of information.

One's immediate reaction is to be a little bit surprised that, with all the talk of the driver shortage, median average earnings for a Class C+E driver have taken a bit (4%) of a dip in the latest survey and median basic pay is continues to be down against 2013. Now, any survey depends on who participates, and it could be that a high paying company has dropped out. But now we're in the new normal following the recession, it's as important to understand what wages can buy, and where they're pitched, as what they are per se. To what extent does all the hard work of getting and maintaining a class 1 licence pay for itself?

The graph below shows Class C+E basic pay and average earnings over the past 10 years as a percentage of corresponding light vehicle driver wage levels. Back in 2005, following the first wave of eastern Europeans arriving in 2004, an artic driver could expect a 20% premium for having his (or her) licence. Despite the ups and downs, that premium has now risen to 40% or more depending on whether it's basic or earnings that you're looking at. So why isn't that attracting younger people as professional drivers, while the number of vans continues to grow? Continued below graph...

To make this chart BIGGER, please click on the chart itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - Driver pay - class C+E - HGV - LGV - vans - Croner - 30 July 2015 - logistics statistics

Now, the van drivers' wages may well be pulled down by part-time working, although using the median is likely to have removed this as a factor, but it raises the issue of flexibility. Back in 2004 I wrote a Viewpoint for Motor Transport, very little of which is out of date. Perhaps it's time to repeat the research referred to in my article, which is still available: SfL Scotland Survey 2003 - the comments from former drivers are important, particularly as this group were still sufficiently interested in LGVs and the road haulage industry to have attended Truckfest, where this element of research was carried out.

In the recent CILT survey on the driver shortage, question 27 asked: What factors do you think are responsible for the driver shortage? I'm guessing that this has been completed by managers, but there's no real point in interviewing current drivers - two reasons: they've stuck with it and many of them don't represent the future workforce.

Perhaps there's a need to research outside our own industry and find out what people like about their jobs and explore whether those factors can be replicated for truck drivers.


22 July 2015: Freight Rate Seesaw

With the news earlier this week that supermarket diesel was cheaper than petrol, I thought it was time to have a quick look at how freight rates to and from Europe compared with a year ago, when I put together a slide pack on European transport costs, which you can find in CILT's Knowledge Centre.

In the meantime, not only has the price of diesel gone down by some 16% (104.92 on 17 July a year ago compared with 88.08ppl at the start of this week), but the exchange rates have also meant that you now get about 13% more Euros than you did a year ago (1.27 on 22 July 2014 compared with 1.44 Euros to the £ earlier this week).

The data in the chart below comes from Freightex, and shows that while trips to this country from mainland Europe are the same or more expensive than they were a year ago (priced in Euros), it appears that foreign hauliers must be desperate to get home, with rates the same or cheaper.

Aricia Update Graph - Freight rates - to and from Europe - 22 July 2015 - Freightex - Logistics Statistics


4 July 2015: Saving or Spending?

There were all sorts of statistics out this week. On 30 June GfK reported post-election 'bounce' as consumer confidence increased 6 points.

And out on 1 July was an ONS release with the exciting description: "National Accounts articles, The Saving Ratio: How is it affected by Households' and Non-Profit Institutions Serving Households' income and expenditure?"

The graph below shows both the saving ratio and the net acquisition of loans - and, yes, the latter does go into negative territory on a couple of occasions. In summary, people are back to saving at pre-recession levels (having saved more while things felt less good), but haven't yet been tempted to take out loans at pre-recession levels (it doesn't feel that good!).

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - saving spending - 4 July 2015 - ONS - Savings Ratio - Net new loans - Consumer confidence - high street - Retail Statistics

The ONS article ends with the conclusion: "...In more recent periods, the falling saving ratio appears to have been driven by slower increases in income from wages and salaries - rather than large increases in consumption..." And the ONS wonders what might happen next: "...If wages continue to rise more quickly, it will be interesting to see whether households consume more (which will further reduce the saving ratio) or save more, which will increase it."

On 2 July BDO seemed to answer that question, reporting the worst June on the high street for nearly a decade, although apparently we have been spending more on eating out and holidays ...so assuming you're one of the crowd, here's some thoughts from 2014 on building the perfect sandcastle - it's the website I need to credit for the sandcastle pic behind the graph!


10 June 2015: Paddy Power - 3/10 on staying in

To see the source of this graphic, please click on the graphic itself.

Aricia Update Graph - European Referendum - 10 June 2015 - Paddy Power - YouGov - Political Statistics

With the vote following the first debate on the UK's membership of the European Union at 544 to 53 in favour of having a referendum, it's definitely time to start assessing what might be the impact of departure, if it happens. And so where better to start than in assessing how likely it is that the UK will leave the union?

In a commentary piece on YouGov yesterday, Stephan Shakespeare said "In our new poll 'Yes' leads ...but look beyond the headline figures and 'No' voters are more likely to vote".

Right now Paddy Power have the following odds:
In favour of remaining in EU - 3/10
In favour of exiting EU - 21/10

What that means is that there is something like a 77% chance of remaining = 10/(3+10), and a 32% chance of exit - some will have noticed that this adds up to more than 100%, but that's betting for you.

Now most (all?) of the pollsters got it dramatically wrong in the lead up to the election and many are still crying into their surveys and, as the Huffington Post reported, "...at 7pm the night before the election, Paddy Power's best odds was that there would be a Labour minority government."

Who do you think is most likely to call this one correctly? And what are you doing to prepare for departure if it happens?

And here's some Linkedin conversation (screen capture on 2 July) following that update:

Linkedin conversation - 10 June 2015 - Ray Fowler - Dan Hawker - Mike Vernon


28 May 2015: Cycle stability?

Yesterday the ONS (Office for National Statistics) released the latest SPPI* figures. In the graph below, I've included the index for Freight Transport by Road (bright pink line) and also the overall index (dark blue) at Gross level (see the footnote under the graph). It was the Road Freight index along with some of the other transport indices that first drew my attention to the SPPI, thanks to the Knowledge Centre at CILT, and I'm always interested to see how that is moving in comparison to general business costs.

But I've also included indices for three categories of business expenditure which have somehow returned to the same sorts of prices as five years ago, after following anything but the same path: Freight Forwarding (yellow line), Property Rentals (lighter blue) and Contract Packing (green).

Now the SPPI is not seasonally adjusted, but it can be seen from the graph that these movements that this volatility is not down to seasonality. Property Rentals seem to have been picking up from mid-2013, although please note that the Property Rentals figure is for businesses generally, it is not logistics specific. Contract packing was remarkably stable for most of that same period until the drop in Q1 this year. And given that Freight Forwarding is said to be counter-cyclical due to the business structure, it at least looks as if the cycle has been more stable than at the beginning of the five years of coalition.

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - inflation - 27 May 2015 - ONS - SPPI - Road freight - SPPI - transport - Logistics Statistics

*The Service Producers Price Index is a bit like the CPI, it shows the increase in prices and rates paid, but for services provided by businesses to other businesses and government - the top level Gross / GSO index as shown on the graph includes the provision of a number of different services to other service businesses as well as to non-service businesses and government departments. It is a quarterly index, so the most recent figures are for Q1.


22 May 2015: Food plods along

Earlier today the ONS (office for National Statistics) released the Retail Sales figures which showing how retail performed in April. My attention was drawn to retail volumes (as opposed to values) when I was doing some sales benchmarking for client earlier this month. I often rebase retail and logistics statistics to make graphs start an index of 100, but in this case I've left the figures exactly as published, with 2011 as the base year, as my point is well-illustrated by this.

What the graph below shows is the extent to which the volume of non-food purchases was increasing before the recession and has picked up again post-recession, while food plods along. No wonder the erosion of supermarket sales by the so-called "discounters" is so damaging to existing players.

To make this chart BIGGER, please click on the chart itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - Retail sales - volume - food - non-food - ONS - 22 May 2015 - retail statistics

And here's some Linkedin conversation following that update:

Linkedin conversation - 27 May 2015 - Lynn Parnell - Noel Blake - Food Volumes - Retail Statistics


24 April 2015: Amazing Amazon!

In the UK a one-hour home delivery means that your order will arrive in a one-hour time window, but in parts of the US it means it will arrive within the hour. Now Amazon doesn't need me to do its advertising, but credit where credit's due - as witnessed by this test of their service by the Statesman last week. And I'm really grateful to Dan Boaz of Airfreight.com for his update on Linkedin that drew my attention to the test.

For anyone who doubts that groceries is where Amazon should be, one look at the graph below shows you all you need to know: the comparatively low market penetration of online in food (red) and its high year-on-year growth (blue) when compared with non-food which includes department stores, clothing and footwear, furniture, electricals, audio/video equipment and recordings - the graph is for Britain and doesn't include non-store retailing. The data for the graph is from figures in the Retail Sales report released by the ONS (Office for National Statistics) yesterday.

This is why all the industrial property companies are predicting the growth in small edge-of-urban fulfilment centres ...and if you're in logistics and you don't think that is where life is going, just read MWPVL's research on the properties that Amazon have in the UK - it's the last entry in the UK listing that makes you sit up, about two thirds down the page.

With all of us now doing convenience shopping for tonight's dinner, home deliveries of fmcg/dry/ambient groceries look like the future ...and delivered before you've even switched off the cooker and sat down to eat.

To make this chart BIGGER, please click on the chart itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - Internet sales - food - non-food - Amazon - urban fulfilment centre - 24 April 2015 - ecommerce and logistics statistics

And here's some Linkedin responses following that update:

Linkedin conversation - 27 May 2015 - Paul Skrgatic - Zen Yaworsky - Richard Fernley - Amazon Profit Loss - eCommerce Statistics


13 April 2015: Pity those in truck manufacturing and sales!

Last week the Department for Transport released the latest new registration figures for different vehicle types and today the BBC was carrying a news item from the SMMT, the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, on how online shopping was boosting van sales.

Because these new registration figures are always very variable month to month, the graph below shows a moving average which smoothes out normal seasonality. The moving average used is based on the twelve months ending with the data point on the graph - so the point for February 2015 is an average for the twelve months ending February 2015 and so on. The scales on the two different axes are quite different, with more than 8 times as many light goods vehicles as heavy registered in 2014.

It's a couple of years since we've looked at these figures, but what the graph demonstrates is not only the rising van sales that have made today's headlines, but also the continued erratic impact of Euro emissions legislation on the purchase of heavy goods vehicles (see also updates in the updates archive dated 17 March 2013 and 15 March 2011).

To make this chart BIGGER, please click on the chart itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - Department for Transport - DfT - new vehicle registrations - 13 April 2015 - transport and logistics statistics


1 April 2015: The link between business and crime

The annual statistics for crime figures run from April to March, and so yesterday represents the end of the most recent period 2014/15. Although the figures won't be available until later in the year, there is already cautious optimism that this will be the last time that they will need to be published.

What you're seeing in the graph on the left below is the number of businesses in the years 2002-14 (maroon line) and the total number of crimes for 2002/3-2013/14 (dark blue line)*. Anyone looking at this graph can see that there is inverse correlation, although the relationship between business and crime is far from straightforward. So the graph on the right plots the two sets of data as a scatter graph (large purple spots) with a trend line (the purple dotted line). Although a linear trend would give a good result with R-squared=0.95**, this second graph shows a polynomial trend line and its R-sq, which at over 0.98 indicates extremely close correlation. And because the number of businesses is already known for 2014, we're able to forecast the number of crimes for 2014/15, which looks to be in negative territory.

Kirsten Tisdale, MD of leading consulting company Aricia Limited, said: "It's unbelievably good news for the government - collating these figures this year is almost a formality, as it looks as if ex-criminals will either be running businesses or even doing good. Businesses and charities need to be ready for this opportunity, harnessing the undoubted innovation skills that many criminals naturally possess, as illustrated by this BBC report".

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - business - crime - forecast - department for business, innovation & skills - home office - Business Statistics

*Both sets of data are from the government's own website - follow these links to learn more about the number of businesses from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and to find crime data from the Home Office.

**R-sq=0 means no correlation at all, R-sq=1 is a perfect match.


24 March 2015: Further pressure on UK supermarkets

Today's news from the Office for National Statistics is that annual inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index currently stands at 0%. Behind that figure is active deflation in the categories of food & non-alcoholic beverages and transport which, along with other categories also in deflation, represent over 55% of weightings in the basket of merchandise and services that comprise the CPI. The only household expenditure category showing double digit inflation this month is Education at a round 10.0%, which even after substantial increases in its weighting recently still only represents 2.6% of the total basket, although that will be very variable depending on whether households are incurring university tuition fees etc.

Also shown in the chart below is the BRC's Shop Price Index, or SPI, compiled by Nielsen. This too is showing annual deflation figure for February, both at total level and when split between Food and Non-Food. And the Grocer Price Index*, the GPI, recorded deflation in all its fourteen categories as well as overall. The GPI is important as it's the only inflation tracker that tracks what most people would regard as their weekly or supermarket shop. Other indexes follow parts of it (just food), or other elements that would be regarded as more occasional or different types of expenditure (eg furniture). The GPI is compiled by Brand View - it tracks tens of thousands of products from the top supermarkets, and tracks the prices actually paid by the customer by reflecting whether an item was on or off promotion.

It's relatively easy to make sales figures look good, or at least not too bad, when there's "healthy" inflation, but although deflation technically means that we have more to spend, it really puts the pressure on - not just for PR departments, but by affecting all key figures including return on investments.

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - ONS - CPI - BRC - SPI - The Grocer - GPI - inflation - food - Retail Statistics

*If you subscribe to The Grocer, there is an absolute wealth of information that you can access via this link.


11 March 2015: Squeeze on SME exporters may not bode well

Despite initiatives from organisations such as the CBI encouraging SME's to export, the latest figures show that the number of businesses exporting (and importing) are reducing rather than increasing. Last week, HMRC published its Regional Trade Statistics for the final quarter of 2014 (provisional) and these have been combined with previous figures to show the past five years. While the HMRC understandably focuses on analysis of which region is doing what (the objective of these figures) and there is report on the number of importers, there's little focus on causes or potential impact.

The chart below is split into exports (top half) and imports (bottom half). The top part shows value of exports to EU and non-EU (dark blue), then the count of businesses involved for EU and Non-EU (medium blue)* and finally the average value per business (light blue). The bottom half, showing imports, follows the same format but in a red-brown theme. It should be noted that the sparklines do not have scales and just show the "shape" of movement for each row of data. These figures are for the UK as a whole.

What can be seen is a general reduction in the number of businesses involved in international trade compared with 2010 and a general increase in value being transacted by those that remain. Since the CBI reports that SMEs are 11% more likely to survive if they export, this doesn't appear to bode well for the economy, as SMEs employ a disproportionately high number of people.

To make this chart BIGGER, please click on the chart itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Chart - exports imports - 11 March 2015 - HMRC - Trade statistics - Logistics Statistics

*There is overlap - nearly 70% of importers from EU are also importers from the rest of the world and nearly 80% of exporters to EU are also exporters to ROW.


25 February 2015: Is it right to expect road freight rates to go down?

Earlier today the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published the latest SPPI* figures. The lines you can see on the graph below are as follows: the dark blue line is the SPPI index for overall business inflation; the bright pink one is the SPPI index for road freight rates as paid by businesses and government; the light blue line is the CPI, the consumer price index, one of the normal measures of inflation witnessed by the individual; and the light pink is the CPI index for personal transport (running your car, catching a train to work or a plane on holiday).

The impact of the reduction of fuel prices can be seen in the cost of personal transport and it carried on into January, as can be seen in the update below this one - because the SPPI is only quarterly, the previous update is more up to date than this one in certain respects!

However, the deflation in road freight rates is so imperceptible that it can hardly be seen on today's graph. This lack of change may be due to the lag generated by retrospective fuel surcharge/rebate mechanisms, but as you'll see from the update on 27 December a bit further down this page, I concluded that this index for road freight rates didn't seem to rise enough when diesel prices were going up, so is it right to expect rates to fall much now?

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - deflation - 25 February 2015 - ONS - SPPI - Road freight - CPI - transport - Logistics Statistics

*The Service Producers Price Index is a bit like the CPI, it shows the increase in prices and rates paid, but for services provided by businesses to other businesses and government - the top level Gross / GSO index as shown on the graph includes the provision of a number of different services to other service businesses as well as to non-service businesses and government departments. It is a quarterly index, so the most recent figures are for Q4.

And here's some Twitter conversation following that update: Twitter conversation - 25 February 2015 - Road freight inflation - Franceline - Marie Boyer - transport - Logistics Statistics


18 February 2015: Fuel price deflation

Yesterday I paid £5 for petrol. It's not a thing I usually do ...I usually fill my tank. But I was so shocked at the price at Cherwell Valley Services (J10 M40), that it was worth inconveniencing myself later. The 119.9ppl was particularly shocking since it was accompanied by a receipt that said "Esso: We're drivers too" - I can only conclude that you all have company cars with fuel included!

However, the price of fuel HAS been coming down, contributing to the fall in inflation overall. Yesterday the ONS published the lastest inflation figures. The graph below shows the movement over the past five years of the top level Consumer Price Index; the transport element of it (what it costs you and I for personal transport, public transport, catching planes...); and illustrates the dramatic change in the fuel & lubes element of running your car over the past six months.

The fuel price changes are those seen by us as individuals, which include VAT on pump prices as well as excise duty - the tax on supermarket diesel and "normal" petrol became more than two thirds of the price you paid in January, as can be seen in the AA fuel price reports.

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - Inflation - Deflation - 18 February 2015 - ONS - CPI - Transport - Fuel cost - fuel tax - Transport Statistics

Because of people's interest in this one, I've added another graph below - this time not mine, but from DECC, the Deparment for Energy & Climate Change.

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

DECC - Diesel price - excise duty - tax - Dec 2014

NB These are pump prices, but it does show how comparatively low the cost of the actual fuel element is in the UK.


4 February 2015: European disunion

With headlines such as yesterday's Guardian, using "European disunion" as a way of describing the state of affairs following the recent Greek election, in some ways it's surprising that the original group has managed to stay together for so long (and continuing to attract new and potential new members) given how different we all are.

The chart below shows some key statistics for each member country: population, physical area, GDP per capita (at purchasing power parity in international dollars), the number of council votes that each country has (although for some decisions, votes are weighted roughly by population, with smaller countries having relatively more votes - other decisions are by consensus) and the number of European Parliament seats. The information came from Wikipedia.

You only have to look at the different sizes and shapes to get a feeling of that disparity: France and, to a lesser extent, Spain with their big land masses; the UK and Poland with a relatively high number of council votes to population; and Luxembourg's GDP per capita pointing out like a needle.

To make this chart BIGGER, please click on the chart itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Chart - European Union - 4 February 2015 - population - land mass - GDP - disparity - Wikipedia - statistics

NB The countries have been grouped into year of accession, although I need to note that of course Germany is relatively larger now than it was back in 1957 when the European Union's predecessor, the EEC, was founded.


24 January 2015: Black Friday impact

Yesterday the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published their most recent retail sales statistical bulletin (and also a nice overview of 2014 internet sales). Back in September 2014, UK Logistics Consultant Alan Braithwaite is attributed as having said "peaks are getting even peakier" in a press release published on the now-defunct parcel carrier City Link's website.

What you can see on the graph below, as the hard blue line, is internet retail sales in £millions since November 2006, the first month for which the ONS publishes that data. The hard blue line shows how internet sales have moved month by month through to December 2014, the most recent figure made available in yesterday's release. The dotted blue trace on the graph shows the linear trend of all that data. Meanwhile, the dashed red line on the graph picks out just the December values, and the purple line just November values.

Looking at the red trace, you can see that "peaks are getting even peakier" applied to this data right through to December 2013 (it was climbing faster than the dotted blue line), but then there seems to have been some flattening off to December 2014. The ONS notes that "Estimates for December 2014 did not include the phenomenon 'Black Friday' however it was included in the December 2013 reporting period". So why are we not seeing a corresponding increase in the purple November line in 2014? Black Friday seemed to be a lot more high profile this year - to the extent that it caught out both retailers and carriers.

The nature of Black Friday is that the sales are not full price, and so it may well be that there was a volume increase, but no increase in £million.

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - internet sales - 24 January 2015 - ONS - December peak - Black Friday - Retail Statistics

NB These figures are often subsequently revised, so don't be surprised if the retail trends subtly change in the next month or so - quoting directly from the ONS bulletin: "the figures contained in this release are estimates based on a monthly survey of 5,000 retailers, including all large retailers employing 100 people or more. The timeliness of these retail sales estimates, which are published just three weeks after the end of each month, makes them an important early economic indicator. The industry as a whole is used as an indicator of how the wider economy is performing, and the strength of consumer spending".


13 January 2015: Think about where you buy

My husband recently bought a new mobile phone with a camera ...well more of a camera with a phone, really. In this interconnected world, having researched the best price in the UK, he then ordered it from Germany - saving 20% even after the cost of shipping was included.

Late last week the Office for National Statistics published the most recent UK Trade figures. The overall picture was of a narrowing in the UK's deficit on trade in goods and services - due to a decrease in imports, largely due to what was described as a decrease in oil imports, although I suspect that was due to a drop in the price of oil. In the same report, the UK recorded its largest ever trade in goods deficit with Germany - exports went down and imports went up slightly. And when you look at what's been happening with exchange rates, both that deficit record and my husband's camera phone story make sense.

The map/s below show three-monthly trade with significant trading partners with imports in red and exports in blue - the significance of our trade with Germany can clearly be seen - our biggest market for imports (dwarfing our imports from China) and second largest for exports.

Please click on the map to make it BIGGER.

Aricia Update Graph - UK Trade - 9 January 2015 - ONS - Imports - Exports - Maptitude - Desire Lines - Flows - Logistics Statistics


27 December 2014: Diesel versus drivers

With the price of diesel as low as it's been in ages, and with the driver shortage said to be putting upward pressure on wage rates, I thought it timely to have a look at inflation indicators in road freight rates and costs.

The various elements shown on the graph below are published to their own individual timetables, with some the result of annual wage surveys, some quarterly, like the SPPI (the Services Producer Price Index) and some more frequently. I have compiled these elements for the last five-ish years, with the fuel price and Consumer Price Index available more recently than the other indicators. All indices have been brought back to a starting point of 100, so that relative differences can be seen.

Please click on the graph to make it BIGGER - below the graph I look at each element in turn...

Aricia Update Graph - road freight inflation - 27 December 2014 - ONS - SPPI - CPI - Croner Transport & Distribution Rewards - bulk diesel - JHA EnergyQuote - Logistics Statistics

Looking at each line on the graph:

  • The price for bulk diesel, shown in orange, is from a couple of different sources, but both credited to JHA EnergyQuote - the last point shown on the graph is mid-November to match the most recent CPI release, but the diesel price has dropped further during December
  • The average earnings for an artic driver, shown in green, is from Croner's annual Distribution & Transport Rewards survey - this tracked below the CPI, the SPPI at gross level and the Freight Transport by Road element of the SPPI - the pay survey was carried out in June/July of this year, before the need for existing drivers to have a Certificate of Professional Competence
  • The grey line is the CPI, the Consumer Price Index, which is the UK's internationally comparable inflation measure - the slight reduction towards the end of the graph is partly down to reduced fuel prices
  • The blue line is the SPPI at gross level - this is like the CPI, but for business costs (see entry for 26 November 2014, further down this page, for more information on this index) - it can be seen that this hasn't risen as fast as the CPI
  • The pink line is the Freight Transport by Road element of the SPPI, which aims to reflect inflation in the road freight rates being paid by government and business - over the period shown this index has ended up having risen by pretty much the same level as the SPPI as a whole, but not as much as the CPI

Not shown on this graph is the cost of new trucks, which according to the latest RHA press release is up by 10% due to the Euro 6 emissions standard.

If I was going to argue anything from this set of data, it would not be that drivers were being paid an excessive amount, but that road freight rates did not rise anything like enough to reflect earlier changes in fuel costs and continue to suffer now because of it.


17 December 2014: Why not help ourselves?

Earlier today the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published the latest UK Labour Market statistics - in the graph below I've included vacancies across all industries and those specific to Transport & Storage.

Please click on the graph to make it BIGGER or continue with the driver shortage story below it.

Aricia Update Graph - driver shortage - 17 December 2014 - ONS - Labour market - vacancies - transport and storage - Logistics Statistics

This graph shows the past six and a half years, as it starts at the highest previous level of vacancies which coincided for the country as a whole (light blue line / left hand axis) and for Transport & Distribution (bright pink line / right hand axis). The level of vacancies is in thousands; it is shown in non-overlapping three month rolling time periods (the way the ONS reports it); and is seasonally adjusted - making that recent uplift in the Transport & Storage line even more striking.

However, what really struck me is the level of vacancies for Transport & Storage - very different to the driver shortage figure of 45K used in various current press pieces and email newsletters. While I don't doubt that there will be companies having trouble sourcing drivers, particularly at this time of year, the ONS figure stands at only 26K, and that figure will include not just vocational drivers, but also warehousing and other forms of transport. It is also less than three quarters of what it was in 2008, despite the overall figure having reached its previous high.

So I ask the question: Does our industry need to help itself more? You can't complain you can't fill a vacancy if you don't make people aware that it exists. And if we don't help ourselves, we won't win the race for skilled labour, which you can see from the graph is well and truly on again!

NB I subsequently read that 65% of employers rely on word of mouth to try to fill vacancies! May explain all sort of things: lack of vacancies, driver shortage...


26 November 2014: Should you 'phone rather than fly?

Earlier today the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published the latest SPPI* figures. In addition to showing general business inflation, they also include a variety of indices that go to make up that top level figure - as with many things in life, the interest is in delving into the detail.

Now, I'm a great fan of face-to-face meetings - not least because as an occasional asthma sufferer it's much easier to judge when it's worth trying to take a breath to make a point when you can see all the body language around the table! But the industry specific inflation figures I've included in the graph (the most extreme inflation and deflation in the SPPI figures over the past five years) go a long way to showing that internet meetings and conference calls are increasingly the more cost-effective way of communicating.

As per normal I've also included Freight Transport by Road, which continues to be a reasonably close mirror of the overall inflation rate over the past five years.

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - inflation - 26 November 2014 - ONS - SPPI - Road freight - business telecoms - business airfares - Logistics Statistics

*The Service Producers Price Index is a bit like the CPI, it shows the increase in prices and rates paid, only for services provided by businesses to other businesses and government - the top level Gross / GSO index as shown on the graph includes the provision of a number of different services to other service businesses as well as to non-service businesses and government departments. It is a quarterly index, so the most recent figures are for Q3.


26 September 2014: UK has cheapest diesel in Europe - no, really!

This update is unusual, as I've not created the graph myself, but copied an interesting one from elsewhere: yesterday, the Department of Energy & Climate Change released its regular statistics on international fuel prices showing how competitive UK diesel prices are compared with the rest of Europe - until you add tax. Now, hauliers won't end up paying all that tax as these are pump prices including VAT, but when you read about FairFuelUK trying (I use the word "trying" deliberately - read the piece) to lobby MPs at the recent Labour Party conference, they are not just whinging. Repeat after me: Our diesel is the cheapest in Europe, until it is taxed.

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - DECC - International diesel prices - FairFuelUK - 26 September 2014 - Logistics Statistics


9 September 2014: Scotland - who decides?

I like a good map and have seen little on the geography of the Yes / No intentions in the Scotland Independence polls, so when TNS published data earlier today from their latest opinion survey, I thought I'd plot the percentages on page 14 on a map. The observant among you will note that what's below is a graph ...the areas referred to may be meaningful to a Scot or a pollster, but judging how Mid & Fife relates to Central, and what counts as West for these particular purposes, would have such an influence on the mapped results that I decided not to go there.

What struck me about the results was the "decisiveness" factor for each area, with 3 out of 4 Glaswegians apparently "certain" to vote a particular way, compared to only 1 out of 2 for the South and West. Obviously much of the campaigning will have been carried out in the more heavily populated areas, and the 1 in 10 totally undecided in the Central area may well be easier to persuade to a polling booth at the last minute than the 1 in 4 in the West, but those who have yet to make up their minds and declare their intentions in the more rural areas may have a significant effect on the results. If these people vote Yes, they may have a profound outcome on retail and logistics operations, as well as the political and wider economic impact*.

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Aricia Update Graph - Scotland Independence Poll - 9 September 2014 - TNS - Yes No Geography - Statistics

*This update was followed by John Lewis Partnership's chairman, Charlie Mayfield, saying on 11 September that it was most probable that prices would rise following a Yes vote.


8 September 2014: Mixed messages

Last month the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published the latest SPPI* figures, including those for National post/Parcelforce. Since the Royal Mail was privatised less than a year ago, there have been mixed messages, with improving services in some areas (like the initiative of opening of some delivery offices on Sundays and, earlier in the summer, Parcelforce delivering seven days per week), but reducing service in other areas, for example, by bringing forward the collection times at thousands of post boxes.

What the latest SPPI figures show, as can be seen in the graph below, is that the cost to businesses of using Royal Mail services has risen by 4.6% over the past year, bringing them in line over a five year period with the general inflation rate for businesses including for users of road freight. Courier services have not followed this trend.

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - inflation - 8 September 2014 - ONS - SPPI - Post & Parcels - Logistics Statistics

*The Service Producers Price Index is a bit like the CPI, it shows the increase in prices and rates paid, only for services provided by businesses to other businesses and government - the top level Gross / GSO index as shown on the graph includes the provision of a number of different services to other service businesses as well as to non-service businesses and government departments. It is a quarterly index, so the most recent figures are for Q2.


July 2014: European Transport Costs

European Transport Costs - no picture with this one, as it links through to a slide pack.


24 June 2014: Ups and downs of exports

On Saturday the Port of Hull celebrated the centenary of its King George Dock which was built in 1914 to export coal from Yorkshire pits - by 2013 over 80% of our coal was imported. So its good to see that Hull is one of the ports that increased its exports year on year in the first quarter of 2014 in the statistics released last week by DfT

The left hand map below shows the increase / decrease in export tonnage as a percentage change Q1 2013 to Q1 2014 - the extremes of change are represented by Ramsgate (Transeuropa went into administration in 2013) and Boston, which is affected by harvest levels. Of course tonnage as a measure favours the basics in life such as fuels, metals, quarry products etc, with five ports representing 50% of total tonnage: Tees & Hartlepool, Forth, Grimsby & Immingham, Milford Haven and Southampton - see right hand map.

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Aricia Update - freight export tonnage by port - 24 June 2014 - DfT - maritime - Logistics Statistics

NB The notes with the statistics also include reference to London Gateway, which will be included with London going forward. All the 2013 and 2014 data is currently provisional.


6 June 2014: Logistics rates hike? Not really!

Last week the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published the latest SPPI* figures. An overall index for Transportation and Storage has been added to the mix relatively recently and shows an increase of 8% against five years ago. The first thing of interest is that the start of the economic problems is now so long ago that a five year graph leaves 2008 far behind - and probably we should - now is the new norm. The second item to note is that, in this instance, Transportation and Storage includes business rail fares (up nearly 16% over that period) and business air fares (up by over 25%) - so my advice is don't go using it as an index for the logistics industry!

The graph below shows some (although by no means all) of the logistics elements. Despite some pretty dramatic looking ups and downs, many of these elements (rail freight, sea freight and contract packing) have ended up at much the same prices as five years ago, while roadfreight has ended up reflecting the increase in the overall SPPI, approx 5%.

To make this graph BIGGER, please click on the graph itself and then expand new window.

Aricia Update Graph - inflation - 6 June 2014 - ONS - SPPI - Logistics Statistics

*The Service Producers Price Index is a bit like the CPI, it shows the increase in prices and rates paid, only for services provided by businesses to other businesses and government - the top level Gross / GSO index as shown on the graph includes the provision of a number of different services to other service businesses as well as to non-service businesses and government departments. It is a quarterly index, so the most recent figures are for Q1.


22 April 2014: Who got behind and why?

Last week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the monthly Labour Market Statistics and accompanying data, including average weekly earnings by industry. These are not seasonally adjusted, as can be seen in the graph below by the large spike that used to occur every May prior to the recession - this was down to bonuses.

Much more unusual and interesting is the mega-spike in February this year, the latest figure published - £100 per week over the January figure, a big proportion of which is down to arrears. Pay arrears for transport have never been into double figures since the start of these statistics in 2000 (previous = max £8), but they were £68 in February, the largest amount for any industry in this period.

Now it has to be said that the February figure is a provisional figure, and as such subject to revision, but it raises the question: what are these huge arrears, which are completely distorting this graph? Did someone get advance notice of Vince Cable's threat to expose companies which are not paying the national minimum wage? Did they get a bit behind? Or, being more serious, did I miss a major company or public sector body giving a large back-dated pay settlement?

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Aricia Update Graph - Transport & storage wages - 22 April 2014 - ONS - Labour Market Statistics


14 April 2014: Price of bread

I was reminded, while reading about the impact that good harvests are having in the piece on the GPI (Grocer Price Index) in Saturday's The Grocer, about the price of bread around the world. Towards the end of March, I went along to Foodex and the Food & Drink Expo at the NEC and picked up a copy of the British Baker magazine, which included a chart of the price of bread in 59 cities around the world, which I've put on the map below.

British Baker in turn credits the EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit), so presumably these figures are getting a bit stale now (get it?), but it demonstrates the extent to which the price of a staple has little to do with the raw ingredients, and everything to do with pretty much everything else: cost of living, exchange rates (the prices shown on the map below are all in £), tastes, quality, manufacturing method, etc.

I would have been interested to see prices for rural areas as well as capital /major cities, although the price of bread in London is remarkably low - what does that say?

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Aricia Update Map - Price of Bread - 14 April 2014 - British Baker - EIU - retail statistics


1 April 2014: Food manufacturers to start mining waste

Figures published in February in a report by Wrap on the Food & Drink Federation Members' Waste Survey revealed that from 2014 the food manufacturing industry will not only NOT be using any landfill, but will be in a position to start to 'mine' waste that can ultimately be sold to the general public. The trend that has been established over a six year period can be clearly seen on the graph below - see page 19 of the report for the survey figures. The figure for 2013 has yet to be fully established, but there is no doubt that the figure for 2014 will be negative.

Kirsten Tisdale, MD of Aricia, a leading logistics consulting company, said "If anyone had suggested to me back in 2010 that we would be able to buy and eat what would once have gone to landfill, I wouldn't have believed them - it shows what strides have been made by the country in recent years. In a short time, landfill will be seen as a different type of foodbank. In this respect the Philippines has been way ahead of the UK, having delicacies made of pagpag for many years. It gives a completely different flavour to the expression Reverse Logistics".

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Aricia Update Graph - FDF Waste Survey - 1 April 2014 - grocery statistics


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