Posted: 11/11/2021

Indie retailers confident in Christmas despite widespread logistical challenges

Short supply chains have led some independent retailers to have fewer concerns over the well-publicised turkey shortages than the multiples

Fine food retailers are tackling several logistical challenges in the run-up to the critical Christmas trading period.

Many independent businesses spoke about the approaches they were taking to overcome well-publicised supply-chain and resourcing issues this festive season.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently insisted there would be “good provision of goods for everybody” this Christmas after former Tesco boss David Lewis was hired by the government to ease a spiralling logistics crisis. Shortages of lorry drivers and food production staff, as well as shipping bottlenecks, have led to gaps on shelves around the country while finding staff for seasonal peaks is itself tricky at the moment.

Daniel Williams, project manager at Cheshire-based Godfrey C Williams & Son, said logistics was the “biggest hurdle we face”.

“I am worried that some orders may not arrive for the first couple of weeks of December – or even for Christmas at all,” he said. “Some of our suppliers are facing shipping problems, particularly with items like wicker hamper baskets shipped from China. 

 “Glacé fruits and Almond Essence are both new shortages this week. We haven’t been able to source certain Irish cheeses for months.”

Rob Copley, owner of West Yorkshire farm shop Farmer Copleys and chairman of the Farm Retail Association, said he had heard of poultry shortages but was able to avoid these by dealing directly with a local farmer.

But he added: “The beef price is going up as slaughterhouses are struggling for staff. We also asked an agency for 20 people to move pumpkins in October and they only sent us two. There will be big pressure on our staff over Christmas, we are squeezing everyone all the time.”

Shane Godwin, managing director of Kent-based Macknade, admitted that “logistics are a worry”. 

“A lot of seasonal stock is drip-feeding in rather than arriving en masse,” he said. “Our biggest risk is butchery, small cuts like beef ribs are a challenge and that drives up price. Staffing has been a challenge but starting to settle down, we just have a few gaps left.

“It is difficult to say for sure it will be a great Christmas but people are keen to make the most of this festive period. Our average spend is stronger than two years ago.” 

Antonio Picciuto, owner of Buongiorno Italia in Hertfordshire, said: “Most of our suppliers have done well in keeping deliveries on time without any major hiccups. My frustration is with the couriers who deliver for our suppliers, as so much time has been wasted on tracking late parcels, and when the goods arrive they are often damaged or even completely unsaleable.” 

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