Parcel delivery and retail firms have been increasingly using the rental sector to meet this demand and also because of caution over the medium to long-term economic prospects.
The trend has been noted by executives at TLS Vehicle Rental who say latest figures show that the amount of money spent on online goods rose 50% year-on-year in November 2005.
Marketing director Sean Welham said: ‘Van delivery fleets are being pulled in two directions. There is increasing demand for their services because of the growth in online shopping which became even more noticeable towards the end of 2005 – but at the same time there is a reluctance to buy more vehicles to satisfy this need, largely because there is a lingering suspicion that the overall retail picture could change.
‘This is a scenario in which van rental makes absolute sense and we have seen fairly strong year-on-year increases in demand from delivery fleets for this reason. Hiring vans gives these fleets the flexibility to meet short term demand such as that seen over Christmas but also provides breathing space to take stock and wait until they feel the confidence to buy their own new vehicles.’