The rise of Uber has driven taxi firms' turnover off course, according to research out today from accountancy firm Moore Stephens.
An analysis of the UK's top 100 largest taxi and minicab firms noted that turnover had dipped three per cent from £495m in 2014/15 to £479m in 2015/16. There had been consistent growth in turnover since 2011/12.
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Ride-hailing app Uber has grown in popularity since it began trading in London in 2012, and has been focused on expansion, growing from three cities at the start of 2015 to more than 40 towns and cities now.
Moore Stephens notes that building up its network has been a pricey development, deployed at a pace that UK taxi firms could not reasonably be expected to match.
Some bigger firms such as Addison Lee have invested in their own technology; Addison Lee now offers location-tracking technology, and has developed its own app.
In April, it unveiled a new £5m high-tech centre for driver training, as it positions itself as an upmarket alternative to the rise of private hire apps.
But smaller firms have been looking at other ways to increase their service levels for customers, such as signing up to city-wide apps, while others have focused on improving their websites' usability and call centre capability.
Philip Bird, transport partner at Moore Stephens, said:
The UK’s minicab industry may face an uphill task to recapture customers, as smaller operators lose market share to larger companies, however much the technology gap can be closed. And while they can also improve the overall customer experience, they cannot match the financial muscle of Uber.
Uber has offered value and convenience to the customer, so traditional taxi companies in cities need to consider how they deal with that.
Something as simple as updating a website or optimising it for smartphones could dramatically help firms outside of the UK’s biggest cities where Uber doesn’t operate.
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Another focus for businesses has been charging up their electric ambitions.
Earlier this month, the London Taxi Company rebranded as the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) and unveiled the final design for the first electric black cab, while Addison Lee pledged to have the largest bank of charging points for electric cars in the capital.
Uber too has an eye on electric car plans. In March, it announced it was expanding its fleet of electric vehicles in the capital to help tackle air pollution, with 100 Nissan Leafs joining its ranks.
Fred Jones, head of UK cities at Uber, said: "More choice and competition is good for consumers as it raises service levels across the board. Passengers now expect to be able to book a ride at the touch of a button, pay without needing cash and track their car on their phone."
The UK's top 100 taxi firms' turnover:
|Year||Turnover in millions|