The vast majority (80%) of businesses operating vans have adapted their services to better serve their community and a quarter have hired more staff to help deal with demand, according to Mercedes-Benz vans.
Offering additional services (40%), increasing opening hours (30%) and cutting prices (28%) are the three most common ways businesses have adapted since the pandemic.
According to the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer, which monitors the opinions on more than 2,000 people in van community, virtually everyone (96%) said they make a conscious effort to support their local businesses.
Almost half say it’s because they want to help the local economy (48%) and because they think the success of local businesses make for a better community. Almost three quarters (73%) feel a sense of loyalty from the communities they serve.
In fact, 73% said that they’ve noticed a greater appreciation from other local businesses since the pandemic, and as well as fellow local businesses, a quarter (24.2%) say they feel people see them more positively in general.
However, while the relationship between the van community and the local community has never been stronger, only a quarter of UK adults associate van drivers as key workers who deliver essential goods (24%).
Steve Bridge, managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, said: “The role of the van community has never been more important to keeping small businesses going and recharging the UK economy, so it’s great to see the ways that these companies are adapting, and how customers are supporting their local shops and tradespeople.
“It is disheartening though that only one in four people associate the hard-working van drivers as key workers, so we will continue to do all we can to shine a light on our wonderful community and raise awareness of the vital role of the industry to all our everyday lives.”
The research also found that local operators are travelling further than ever before to attract customers and are pushing the boundaries of what is ‘local’ in order to stay afloat; two-thirds of companies have widened their search and are prepared to travel up to 25 miles outside of their home, and in some cases more than 50 miles (34%), to service new business.
Almost 85% say the support from their local community is important to their survival, but as well as catering for them, it’s clear that the current climate has meant SMEs have had to widen their net and rethink their business models to survive, says Mercedes-Benz Vans.