Yule face Christmas shortages: Shoppers could see empty shelves

Yule face Christmas shortages this year: Shoppers could suffer ‘disruption’, empty shelves and rising prices as festive season approaches, retail experts warn

  • Shoppers face gaps on shelves this Christmas and rising prices, experts warn 
  • Concerns triggered by petrol prices and soaring living costs sapping confidence
  • It came as figures showed retail sales growth in September of only 0.6 per cent 

Shoppers face ‘disruption and frustration’ this Christmas amid gaps on shelves and rising prices, retail industry experts warned yesterday.

At the same time, concerns triggered by the recent petrol crisis, soaring energy bills and the rising cost of living are sapping consumer confidence, they said.

It came as figures showed retail sales growth in September of only 0.6 per cent, disappointing for a month that normally does well because of back to school purchases.

It emerged last night that containers are sitting at the country’s biggest port for up to ten days due to the shortage of HGV drivers

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said swift action by the Government to deal with the HGV driver shortage was needed to prepare for Christmas. ‘Retailers, farmers and manufacturers are making preparations to ensure enough food and festive gifts move through the supply chain in time,’ she added.

‘Unfortunately, the lack of drivers is hindering these preparations and increasing costs, which will eventually be reflected in higher prices.

‘Retailers are working hard to recruit and train thousands of new British drivers, but in the interim Government needs to urgently extend its visa scheme to address the shortfall of 90,000 drivers.’

It emerged last night that containers are sitting at the country’s biggest port for up to ten days due to the shortage of HGV drivers.

Felixstowe, Suffolk, has become so congested that bosses are considering turning vessels away unless the situation improves. The British International Freight Association said it understood average ‘dwell times’ for cargo at the port have nearly doubled in the past two weeks from five to 9.7 days.

The figure is nearly double the average for last year. It comes despite the fact that the port – which handles 40 per cent of Britain’s container imports – is only dealing with similar import volumes to 2019.

But the shortage of lorry drivers means more containers are arriving than being collected, ITV News reported. The situation is creating a backlog affecting retailers.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said the final three months of the year are ‘looking challenging’ for stores.

‘As we run into the crucial Christmas shopping period, retailers continue to face staffing pressures and supply chain issues, with challenges getting product into the UK and getting goods into customers’ hands,’ he added.

Susan Barratt, chief executive of the Institute for Grocery Distribution, said its Shopper Confidence Index showed 85 per cent of customers expect food and grocery prices to get more expensive in the year ahead

‘This may feed into limited availability of certain products and the spectre of price rises remains.’

Susan Barratt, chief executive of the Institute for Grocery Distribution, said its Shopper Confidence Index showed 85 per cent of customers expect food and grocery prices to get more expensive in the year ahead – the highest level of concern on this issue since March 2013.

She added: ‘With inflation rising and plans for increased taxes, 31 per cent of shoppers expect to be worse off financially in the year ahead compared with 22 per cent in August.’

A Port of Felixstowe spokesman said that while there had been a ‘build-up of containers… the vast majority are cleared for collection within minutes of arriving’.

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