Whether for trips to the cash and carry, home deliveries or visiting local suppliers, a reliable van is the beating heart of many retailers’ businesses. Retail Express teams up with Neil McIntee, editor of VansA2Z, to find out which of their award winners are best for your business

Expert: Neil McIntee, editor of VansA2Z

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“Voted for by the editorial teams of VansA2Z and Van Fleet World, the latest generation Ford Transit Custom takes the van of the year 2018 crown, as well as best medium panel van.

“The latest generation Ford Transit Custom is bristling with all the latest active safety features, connectivity and driver comforts. A recent round of revisions brought it bang up-to-date, including the option of an automatic transmission.

“It’s a package that few, if any, of its rivals in its sector can beat.”

 

Small vans

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If you have a small shop, it makes sense to have a small van. Even larger stores that receive deliveries from suppliers can still make use of a small van to respond quickly to demands or sudden out
of stocks. 

“Small vans are designed to be light and completely at home in towns and cities. They are easy to drive and manoeuvre and very fuel efficient. Currently there are just two competitors in this sector; The Fiat Fiorino and Ford Transet Courier,” says Neil. 

Surrey retailer Ralph Patel, owner of The Look-In, Surrey, says having a smaller van is perfect for his business.

“Because our store is only 400sq ft, we do not have enough space to store a lot of products. 

“For that reason, it’s more convenient for us to pick up our products as we run low.”  

Smaller vans also come with a smaller price tag. “It’s most important to consider the price. Some retailers can get by with a small vehicle if they pick up their stock frequently or if they do not have a storage space that is big enough,” Patel explains.

Larger vans

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A larger vehicle can pay off for retailers that do the majority of their shopping at a cash
and carry. 

It might come with a higher initial investment, but savvy retailers told Retail Express that they manage to find cost savings elsewhere.

Kamlesh Patel, owner of Premier Fulford Convenience Store in Bristol, says: “I think it is best to try to get interest free loans if you end up buying a new vehicle. Some manufacturers also provide free servicing, some even up to five years and these are good ways of getting a more cost-effective deal.”

Neil says: “Large panel vans are the fuel-efficient, high payload, large capacity load-shifters that tend to dominate the outside lane of the motorway. 

“The award for our large panel van category went to a range of vans that raised the bar once again in terms of usability and technology; Volgswagen Crafter and its very close relative, the MAN TGE.”

Low emissions

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If your store or your cash and carry is located in an urban location, then investing in a low-emmission van may pay off in the future.

Bharti Chavda, owner of Westminster Grocery in London, says retailers who rely on a van should ensure they buy a good quality vehicle that avoids the emissions charge.

“We bought our van three years ago before the emission charges came into effect,” says Chavda.

Older vehicles driving in central London need to meet minimum Euro emission standards or pay an extra daily charge. This is in addition to the Congestion Charge, which is £10 pounds per day.

Patel says: “Our current van is only four years old, although we have been using vans in our business for over 20 years. We had to get rid of our old van because it was not cost effective for us to make it meet the requirements of emission charges.”

“Ultra Low Emission Zones are heading to an urban centre near you, meaning the role of battery-powered and hybrid vans will become ever more important,” says Neil.

“Our winner was the first manufacturer-developed pure electric van to come to market, the Renault Kangoo Z.E. and highly commended for 2018 is the Nissan e-NV200.”