COVID-19 pandemic fallout continues across industry

Liquidations of two well-established movers in Europe and continuing changes to restrictions among the latest developments

The long-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the international moving and relocation industry continues to unfold, with the liquidation of two well-established FIDI-affiliated European movers.

Brussels-based Ziegler Relocation – a former division of the Ziegler Group, which had been acquired by the Demeco Group in 2018 – and the UK’s largest family-run nationwide removals and storage company, London-based Bishop’s Move Group, went into administration during August.

Founded in 1854, Bishop’s Move has 24 branches across the UK and a branch in Gibraltar and Spain. Following the appointment of administrators at the company, AGM Relocation Ltd (AGM Group) announced that it had purchased its business and assets. An AGM statement said Bishop’s Move will continue to operate throughout its existing branch network within the UK and Europe and that service ‘between Bishop’s Move and its clients will continue uninterrupted and will not be affected’. It added: ‘AGM Group and Bishop’s Move agent partners will be able to benefit from joint intra UK-EU shipment consolidation moving services.’

In a joint statement, Paul Evans, AGM Group Chairman, and Russell Start, AGM Group Managing Director, said: ‘We are all very excited about the prospect of aligning the Bishop’s Move brand into the AGM Group of companies. The synergies between our brands are very exciting, with their heritage and commitment to high-quality customer service running throughout all the distinctive areas of the businesses.’

Emma Thompson, Associate Director at Smith & Williamson and joint administrator of Bishop’s Move, said she was pleased a sale had been arranged. ‘Following difficult trading conditions over the past few years, COVID-19 proved to be challenging for the company. Restructuring the Bishop’s Move Group has allowed the underlying business an opportunity to excel under new owners,’ she said. ‘The pre-packaged business sale that we have put together will maximise the financial return to the creditors of the Bishop’s Move Group.’

Under FIDI rules relating to a company entering administration, the affiliation of both Bishop’s Move and Ziegler were cancelled (Bishop’s Move is immediately re-applying to FIDI under the new ownership). Mid-September, two further Affiliates, Elliott Mobility in Botswana and Zambia, went into voluntary liquidation, automatically leading to the cancellation of their FIDI membership. The International Association of Movers (IAM) also expelled Al-Dana Freight in Bahrain and Wridgways in Victoria State, Australia, for failing to resolve debts to other members that are more than 120 days old; and cancelled the membership of a further 11 businesses for non-payment of IAM membership fees.

In a separate development, FIDI has announced that it is placing a moratorium on all FAIM audits until the end of 2020 – see page 17.

Meanwhile, lockdowns and other restrictions changed across the world – including the opening of Schengen-zone borders in Europe in July – but the situation with regard to local constraints and quarantines continued to shift rapidly, with international movers advised to follow developments closely. Business was expected to be initially strong in certain areas where jobs had been threatened, including the UAE, where the Associated Foreign Press reported that 900,000 expat positions could be lost across Dubai and the other Emirates.

And, while some regions reported a recovery in moving business, conditions in others remained difficult, such as the US, where working visas had been frozen.  

Despite the ongoing obstacles, an August PwC study of 350 companies in the moving and relocation industry found the majority of movers believe that ‘business as usual’ will return after a period of time; while just 12 per cent thought there would be fundamental changes to mobility. Some 20 per cent said the number of international moves will fall because of the crisis.

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