âLast week I ran out of Coca-Cola. I haven’t drunk big bottles of Evian for three weeks,â Patel said.
“Without products, there is no business. With empty shelves like this, no one is going to enter the store anyway,” he added.
A wide range of businesses have been suffering from shortages for several months in the UK – from milkshakes at McDonald’s to beer at a chain pub to mattresses at Ikea.
But shoppers are also faced with empty shelves for things as basic as water and milk in UK supermarkets and grocery stores.
The coronavirus crisis has severely disrupted the global supply chain, but Britain’s divorce from the European Union late last year has exacerbated the problem in the UK.
Shops are not having the products delivered, as rules making it harder to hire EU citizens have left transport companies with a drastic shortage of truck drivers.
Many people who returned to their home countries from Britain during the lockdown have not returned.
Co-op, a cooperative group of supermarkets, said it was “affected by uneven distribution” of its deliveries, but was working with suppliers to restock quickly.
The group said it was recruiting 3,000 temporary workers “to keep depots at full capacity and stores stocked as quickly as possible.”
– Where’s the milk? – According to recent estimates, the UK is currently facing a shortage of around 100,000 lorry drivers.
âWe had already decided to reduce our stock because of Covidâ¦ but now we are also struggling to get some products because they are just not available,â Patel said.
In a supermarket near his store, the non-alcoholic beverage aisle was a bit short of bottles and cans, but the other shelves were full.
But sales assistant Toma, 22, said the situation was grim.
âWe don’t have any stock, we don’t have anything in our warehouse,â said Toma, who declined to give his last name.
âWe have gaps everywhere,â she said. “Sometimes we only get a certain amount (of certain products). We don’t even have water.”
The shortages started when the pandemic hit and worsened after Brexit went into effect on January 1, Toma said.
Some customers complain to supermarket staff and “say it’s our blame,” she added.
In another large supermarket in south-east London, bottled water was scarce and milk was scarce on the shelves.
The Island frozen food group and retail giant Tesco have warned of Christmas shortages.
Iceland manager Richard Walker said the company had cut deliveries because it had 100 fewer drivers than it needed.
âEvery day we are missing about 10% of the stock we ordered in our depots,â he wrote in a blog, adding that âwhen the going was the worstâ his only bread supplier was not. unable to deliver to 130 stores. per day.
– ‘Perfect storm’ – UK commodity shortages “are likely to last for some time and may even intensify further,” according to a note from Capital Economics, a research consultancy.
A report released this week by the Confederation of British Industry cited the Road Haulage Association as saying it would take at least 18 months to train enough heavy truck drivers to replace those who have left.
For the CBI, the double effect of Brexit and Covid-19 is a “perfect storm”.
Inventory levels relative to expected sales fell more than 20% to an all-time high in the retail and distribution sector in August, according to the CBI.
The group urged the government to be more flexible on immigration and add skilled truck drivers to a list of occupations that lack workers.
Trucking companies and delivery-dependent businesses are offering bonuses and higher wages in an attempt to retain drivers, but the measures have raised concerns that they may be contributing to rising inflation.
Ryan Koningen, 49-year-old project manager at a City of London company, said his colleagues often discussed the situation and “the question of costs: will they go up because drivers get bonuses?”
He, too, said he had noticed shortages of “everyday products”.