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Logistics firms innovating, says Southampton financial adviser

While there has been a decline in confidence among logistics providers, firms in Southampton and Hampshire are innovating their way through the challenges, according to Southampton business and financial advisers Grant Thornton UK LLP.

The company says the key to remaining competitive is through innovation and adds that there are examples of local logistics firms doing just that.

The comments come in light of new research and ahead of an event in Southampton on April 16 which will see Grant Thornton bring together business leaders from some of the region’s biggest logistics firms.

The latest Grant Thornton and Barclays UK Logistics Confidence Index suggests consumer demand, margin pressure and fuel costs continue to be major areas of concern within the industry.

A continued challenging outlook is also predicted - with the majority (42 per cent) of those surveyed stating they do not foresee business conditions changing over the next six months; and a further 41 per cent expect conditions to be somewhat more difficult or much more difficult.

Despite the challenges, the survey results show that there is still an overall optimistic view of 2013; with the majority expecting an increase in profits (52 per cent) and headcount (37 per cent) over the next six months.

Innovation is a key differentiator in the industry, and many logistics providers are starting to put this high on their agendas. Over half (55 per cent) will be implementing new innovative supply chain solutions over the next six months with a further 19 per cent actively reviewing options. The two main areas of focus identified will be investment in IT (28 per cent) followed by collaborative solutions (24 per cent).

Norman Armstrong, Partner at Grant Thornton in Southampton, commented: “We anticipate further mergers and acquisitions activity in the logistics sector in the short-term driven by several factors - the need to achieve scale, geographic expansion and further service offerings in order to be able to offer end-end solutions for customers.”

Gavin Isle, Managing Director at Barclays Corporate Banking Southern, added: “Logistics businesses have often been viewed as “commodity” type providers by their customers, and therefore the development and offering of new services across the entire supply chain will help to change this perception. Greater opportunities in collaboration exist, but the challenge is getting the much needed buy-in and change amongst all customers.”

Frank Dixie, managing director of worldwide logistics firm PSP, based in Fareham, added: “There is no excuse for letting innovation take a back seat and Norman and Gavin are right that the opportunities are there for collaboration. We were ahead of the curve with this in 2010 when we launched the first ever worldwide boat transportation alliance, bringing on board some of the best agents across the world to work with us to deliver a global service.

“This innovation has had a direct impact on the financial success of our company, which just this year saw a 20% increase in turnover from non-leisure boat shipments.”

Grant Thornton will be providing further advice and debate opportunities to local logistics firms at the Hilton Hotel in Chilworth on April 16. To register your interest in the event, or to find out more email Haley.E.Kitchen@uk.gt.com or call 023 8038 1100.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by laura downton .

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