It's been a rough couple of years for moving companies as demand for moving household goods (HHG), corporate relocation, and trade show services has dried up dramatically. That's why Chicago-based Bekins Van Lines is one of many moving firms looking to move more into logistics and home-delivery services to drive future growth.

"After September 11, a lot of the traditional business movers relied on went way down and hasn't recovered," Bekins vp of business development Jack Griffin told Fleet Owner. He noted that the corporate relocation business has fallen off 22% over the last two years and that trade show services have dropped off as much if not more.

"The economy has been really brutal -- no one figured that we'd stay in a recession this long,” said Griffin, “and that has driven HHG business way down as a result."

Griffin believes that Bekins and other movers need to refocus their efforts on other markets in order to grow their businesses -- especially in the areas of high-value good shipments and home delivery of retail goods.

"The way we are set up with our 300-plus agent structure is that we can offer both truckload and LTL-style trucking services and warehousing," he explained. "We recognize we're not a third-party logistics company and we don't want to market ourselves as such. But we have the ability to handle goods in a way that third-party firms can't, which could be an advantage for us."

The direct shipment of retail goods to consumers via Bekins' new Home Direct subsidiary is another major growth area for the company, said Griffith. "Home Direct shipments are up 52% and revenues are up 40%. It's going like gangbusters," he said. "And it's a market segment that's still relatively immature, so there's still lots of room for growth."

Rich McKee, president of Weymouth, MA-based McKee Moving & Storage -- a Bekins agent -- added that the focus on specialty logistics services and home delivery for high-value goods will drive the moving business in the future.

"Companies like FedEx and UPS are getting into bigger and bigger things, but we like to think we're getting into smaller things -- shipments that need specialized handling and set-up that companies like FedEx are not positioned to provide," he told FleetOwner.

That kind of 'high-value' service has been handled by traditional freight companies in the past, including less-than-truckload carriers, but offers many opportunities for movers, said McKee.

"We're ideally suited for that business, because we go to homes and businesses and set things up -- that's what we do," he explained. "We unpack goods and take away the debris. If you want to move it two inches left, we move it two inches to the left. That's why I think this direct business-to-consumer market holds great opportunity for us."