According to Jeremy Thompson, the MD of Absolutely, his company operates the second-largest fleet of vans in London after CitySprint.
The reason you might not know the name is because, until recently, the company was known as the Mach 1 Group and operated a number of businesses separately, including the likes of A to Z Couriers, Pink Express and West End Couriers, in order to retain the brands’ identities and not confuse customers.
However, as Absolutely has acquired 20 companies within the past 20 years, including two within the past few months, Thompson now believes a central umbrella name will help grow the business in the future.
The company’s services are split into four separate divisions – overnight, same-day deliveries, international deliveries and executive cars – with each division having its own base, which Thompson says can play to his brand’s advantages, as the company is “big enough to cope with anything, but small enough to give a personalised service”.
The majority of the courier fleet is made up of owner-drivers and the firm has around 250-300 vehicles on its books, with a wide range of vans in use, including the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which is used for overnight deliveries, a market Thompson says is “growing exponentially” for Absolutely thanks to the rise of online shopping: “Every time someone sits on the internet and orders something, someone has to deliver it, and that’s largely overnight, and that side of the business is growing at a rate of knots.”
Not going electric
Thompson says he will not move to use electric vans yet because he finds “the vehicles aren’t good enough” in terms of the range they offer.
However, he admits “we are monitoring that and we hope that in due course the right model will come along”, adding that he isn’t concerned with the impending launch of the capital’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone because Absolutely’s fleet of small vans is largely already compliant.
If the ULEZ is not a concern, surely Absolutely must be worried by Uber launching a courier service in London? Not so, according to Thompson.
“We’re not concerned by Uber on the courier side because we don’t think they’ll be able to offer the service that we can offer,” he says. “They may attract a new market – those who don’t normally use couriers if they can get on an app, spend a fiver to pick up some shopping – they may do that, [but] that’s new business so it isn’t affecting us.
“We feel the clients we deal with – lawyers, banks and retail fashion companies – won’t want to deal with the one-off Uber drivers; they’re looking for something professional.”
At the moment, Absolutely is based in London, but Thompson hasn’t ruled out moving beyond the capital: “We’re looking at various possibilities to go further afield, but at the moment, the right opportunity has not yet come along, and if it does, we may well expand outside London.
“Obviously places like Birmingham and Manchester have a requirement for same-day delivery couriers… so if we are going to expand nationally it will be in the likes of Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool”