As we move into October, supermarkets and other retailers around the UK are beginning to display Christmas items in store. However, Boris Johnson has warned that there could be empty shelves over the festive period due to the ongoing HGV driver shortage. Christmas shortages will only be a magnification of an existing problem, though.
You, yourself, may have already noticed gaps in food stores since Brexit, with additional customs clearance requirements and the shortage of drivers making it more difficult for fresh produce to be delivered to UK supermarkets.
Although there has been some relief from port health checks being delayed until January 2022, the growing driver shortage and panic buying – such as that seen in the current fuel crisis – could see food shelves very empty as the holiday approaches.
The driver problem is not only present for food arriving by trailer from the EU, though.
Shipping lines and hauliers have been unable to cover container deliveries from ports across the UK, due to last minute changes in driver availability, and have needed to constantly revise and reschedule traffic sheets that customers are booking up a month in advance. Containers are being kept on quayside for weeks with no guarantee of being delivered on the booked date.
In addition to an increase in driver demand and potential panic buying, there are other factors that will contribute to Christmas shortages in shops around the UK.
Christmas shortages from China imports
Shipping from China has become less of an option for many importers over the last year, with the increase in freight rates to $17,000+ for a 40′ container being too much for many importers to absorb on their profit margins, or effectively pass on against cheaper alternatives from the EU (which has also affected the driver demand).
In addition to increased freight rates, spots on vessels have also been unreliable, with many shippers’ bookings being rolled again and again. Factories have needed to hold items whilst waiting on containers to collect their goods, and power cuts are now affecting their productivity at a time when completing an order a week late could mean cancellation.
These delays mean that goods being ordered now might not be completed, or ship in time to reach the UK for Christmas delivery.