The trade body representing warehouse and logistics suppliers has called on government for more detail on when it might ease restrictions on certain sectors of the economy.
The call comes after the government announced yesterday (Thursday, 16 April) it was extending the lockdown for a minimum of three weeks as it was unclear if the spread of the virus had peaked in the UK.
The UK Warehouse Association told the Daily Update today (Friday, 17 April) that its members were “looking down the abyss of no information from government” as they faced full capacity because of an inability to move stock and unpaid customer bills.
UKWA has more than 700 members in the logistics sector, including warehousing and logistics providers as well as manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers.
“Whilst fully understanding the reluctance of the government to speculate on the exact timing for the lifting of lockdown, businesses need to understand the phasing that is likely to happen when the time comes,” said Peter Ward, chief executive of the UKWA.
“Our view is government has got to start communicating on what this phasing might look like,” Ward added.
If warehouses and logistics companies “had a planning horizon and with a bit of guestimate and working with government, we might know when some of that capacity could be released into various sectors of the economy.
“If the logistics sector knew that certain sectors might reopen, for instance DIY stores located out of town but not high street - then we could plan accordingly,” Ward said.
“But without a plan we’re static,” he added.
Cash flow challenges
The logistics sector is, said Ward, “renowned for being robust and responsive, but with so many of our members suffering severe cash flow challenges, and with warehouse capacity running near to full capacity, we need to understand what we should plan for, and how soon after the lifting of lockdown manufacturing and retail sectors will be allowed to resume working”.
Ward said he “absolutely understood” the government could not give “a precise date” when things would change. “However, it is not unreasonable for us to expect some indication of when the lockdown might ease, sector by sector, from schools to retail and down to pubs.
Members of UKWA were “sitting on warehouses full of stock” while talking to ports and terminals for off-dock storage of containers “for fear of our ports being congested”.