The boss of Iceland says the pressures facing the supermarket sector is a worry, but there is no need for customers to panic buy
Richard Walker says that although he has concerns about supplies over the bumper Christmas season, there is no need for UK consumers to panic buy as it would damage the grocery sector’s supply chains.
The boss of Iceland has said that the “array” of pressures facing the supermarket sector currently is a worry, but there will be no need for customers to panic buy in the run-up to the Christmas period.
The managing director of the grocery chain Richard Walker, who had warned earlier this month that UK’s shoppers faced a significant increase in costs at the country’s tills due to the national lorry driver shortage, said that the fresh food sector was more likely to face disruption and empty shelves.
He was speaking just hours after it had emerged that Tesco, which is the UK’s largest retailer, had told the government that it was worried about panic-buying ahead of the Christmas period.
This comes after a leading customs expert, who predicted the HGV truck driver shortage and issues causes by the sea border in the Irish Sea, believe that delayed bureaucratic customs laws will lead to meat and fruit and vegetables from the EU being too costly to import.
The Grocer reported that the company had told a meeting of the government’s new food and drink taskforce that it could be “far worse” than the stockpiling at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year.
In recent months, supermarkets have been at the forefront of demands that the government ease Brexit immigration restrictions and allow HGV drivers to be added to the Shortage Occupation List.
Mr Walker spoke of his shock that “ballerinas and orchestra concert musicians” were able to be brought in at the expense of workers who could keep the wheels of the economy moving.
“Of course, longer-term, we need to recruit UK drivers, and I hope that will happen, but that will take six-nine months to get them trained up, and we have Christmas to worry about before then”, he said.
The government has dismissed the idea on the grounds there is a shortage of drivers across Europe.
The UK’s logistics sector has said that it remains short of 100,000 drivers.
The pressure on deliveries has also added to costs down the supply chain to tills because companies have to pay more to secure deliveries and drivers.
Other pressures within the consumer-facing economy include problems with hiring staff as a record number of vacancies has left hospitality and retail businesses scrambling to meet their recovery plans.
Soaring energy costs in the country have also added to the cost of food production and logistics while the supply problems facing CO2, widely used in the manufacturing process including slaughter, contribute to the jitters.
This comes after Ministers in the UK are considering ways to cut energy bills for some of the poorest households in the nations amid soaring gas prices as analysis suggests that a typical low-income UK family will be £1,750 worse off by April 2022.
A number of other well-known brands had admitted on Thursday that they had been caught up in the web of challenges but were reporting that sales numbers were, largely, back in full swing following the end of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Pub operator Fuller, Smith & Turner has said that it was “not immune” from the effects of the current recruitment crisis in the UK, while DFS Furniture has used the publication of its annual results to say that it was working hard to mitigate the impact of the headwinds as their orders had continued to surge as a result of pent-up demand.
Its statement warned: “It should be recognised that the short-term operational environment continues to be exceptionally uncertain and difficult, given well-reported logistics disruption, cost inflation pressures and unplanned COVID absences”.