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The Gateshead firm that has adapted to benefit from online shopping

The decline on the UK High Street has opened opportunities for other companies, not least those involved in online retail.

As well as the retailers themselves, companies in logistics and deliveries are crucial to the online selling system, lending one North East company opportunities to branch out from its traditional operations.

Gateshead’s Central Taxis started out as a haulage business and had been operating a fleet of vans but struggled with the issue of delivering smaller items up and down the country. To tackle the problem the family business decided to diversify and bought a taxi firm.

“We were sitting one day and thought: ‘How can we get smaller items to Devon?’, for example.” said managing director Mark Nellist. “We are a quick acting company and people want their items there and then.


“Taxi drivers are there 24 hours a day. Join a courier company with a taxi company and then you can send out the smaller parcels.”

With the new fleet of smaller vehicles, Gateshead Central was able to support its haulage business, making it more agile and able to deliver small parcels at short notice.

But the financial crash of 2007 hit the sector and fewer companies wanted packages delivered. But due to the taxi business’s dual role at Central, the company managed to manoeuvre and refocus on its private hire work.

Mr Nellist said: “The work was tightening up and people were querying prices. The taxis took over from the courier business and we took on more taxi work. We then went on to the bus side of things.

Gateshead Central operates a fleet of courier vans, taxis and buses
(Image: Jonathon Manning)

“It’s anything with an engine now. If it’s got an engine we will give it a go. The taxis took over from courier work. The taxis moved on to the buses.”

Gateshead Central has diversified its business into three core areas – courier work, taxis, and buses – with each area accounting for around a third of the firm’s revenue.

The newest of the three divisions, the firm’s bus arm, has grown substantially since it launched and the firm now operates around 80 services for Nexus across the North East. It also runs the Tesco community buses as well as private hire vehicles.

The buses are operated from a main control centre at the firm’s head office, where the team can track the location of each of their buses allowing them to deal with issues and delays as they arrive. All of the data is tracked on a live streamed map, which shows the exact location of each vehicle in the North East.


Nexus’ bus operations are a growing part of Gateshead Central’s diverse business and Mark believes the company will soon benefit from increased transport spending in the region.

“Nexus has done a very good job over the last five or six years. Austerity has taken away a lot of the services but not as many in the North East. Nexus has managed their money very well.

“Now that we are coming out, the Government has released more money for transport.”

The main area for growth for Gateshead Central is its courier business, which is taking advantage of changes in the retail sector. With the rise of online shopping Mr Nellist spotted an opportunity and his company now works with Amazon.

“Online sales rule the world,” he said. “It is about getting what you want as soon as you want it.

“Ten or 15 years ago if you went online and ordered something it would take days to turn up. Now, if you order something tonight, you want it the next day.

“The next step with online shopping is same day delivery. We actively have that in the North East. If you order with Amazon Prime – if you order before 2pm – you get it within two hours. Unfortunately, it does have a knock on effect with reduced footfall.”

While high street stores have suffered, Gateshead Central has grown. The taxi and courier business operates 24 hours a day and by necessity is quick to react. Mr Nellist has adopted this as his philosophy for doing business, which led him to embrace the delivery work for Amazon.

New revenues streams are also being added by the company, including security alarm maintenance work and installing roller shutter doors.

But this growth has led to problems in recruiting staff.

“There is a massive shortage of drivers,” said Mr Nellist. “We can put that down to Brexit. There are less unemployed people, everyone is looking for people.

“We are massively struggling to hire. On any given day we are about 100 drivers down. We can fill 100 drivers and then start to grow.”

Treating his staff well has always been a top priority for Mr Nellist, and the company rewards its staff financially by sharing out a proportion of the companies profits, meaning all of its workers are incentivised to perform.

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