Are times moving on in the removals game?

Abels boss Philip Pertoldi. Picture: Ian Burt

Abels boss Philip Pertoldi. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Whether it be the man with a van or team with a lorry, the removals industry has played an important part in people's lives for many decades.

Philip Hunt and Son house removals in the 1970s. Picture: Archant Library

Philip Hunt and Son house removals in the 1970s. Picture: Archant Library

But the business is changing as our moving habits and lifestyles evolve and some firms have been left behind.

Shipdham-based Britannia Neave went out of business after 30 years last month, taking 20 jobs with it.

But others in the industry insist there is still plenty of life in it.

Philip Pertoldi is managing director of Brandon-based movers Abels, which conducts 60% of its business around greater London.

Removals firm Loads4Less has diversified by opening an upcycling store. Director Adam Soall and Wayn

Removals firm Loads4Less has diversified by opening an upcycling store. Director Adam Soall and Wayne GradyPicture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

It focuses on larger moves and holds a Royal Warrant for its continuing work with the family, having helped to move wedding presents for Prince Charles and Diana Spencer's wedding in 1981.

He said customers now brought a lot less with them in a typical move. 'Once upon a time everything would go – the curtains, items of furniture, the carpets – but now people tend to leave more or replace it. That is especially true when going overseas,' he added.

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Inevitably, the rise of the internet has had an impact and Mr Pertoldi said comparison sites meant there was competition from across the country for every job, driving down margins.

He added recruitment had also become tougher in recent years.

'It used to be the case that if you wanted to leave Norfolk you joined Abels,' he said. 'Now people are far more worldly and don't want nights away from their family.'

Norwich-based Loads4Less has embraced technology and director Adam Soall said the firm was getting busier due to digital marketing and insights which allows it to target specific services or audiences.

The Future50 member opened a store for upcycled furniture in Prince of Wales Road last year and Mr Soall said it was going from strength to strength.

He said: 'More people are renting these days and while that can be bad for them it is good for us because people tend to move more. If you don't like your house after a year you can up sticks and leave.

'We look at the age groups we work with and it tends to be 25 to 50-year-olds which is a slightly higher range than it used to be because it is harder to get on the property ladder now.'

On the move?

The removals industry saw a minor increase in transactions last year, despite Brexit uncertainty impacting overseas moves.

Trade body the British Association of Removers (BAR) found a near 1% rise in transactions involving its members in 2017 compared to the year before, up to 537,827.

Of those 288,371 were domestic (a rise of 4.5%), 133,627 were commercial (a rise of 4%) and 115,829 were overseas (a fall of 10%).

Ian Studd, BAR director general, said the fall in moves abroad was driven by businesses not making moves during a time of uncertainty.

He added: 'One thing we have seen is a reduction in the notification of moves and certainty in the pipeline.

'It is getting shorter and that means we can forecast less far ahead.'

Mr Studd also said there had been a fall in the volume of items moved with a household, with possessions like pianos no longer found in most homes.