Posted: 22/09/2021

Speciality suppliers working hard to ensure Christmas orders are fulfilled

Supermarkets have warned of possible empty shelves at Christmas

Fine food wholesalers have acted to calm fears that supply chain staff shortages could ruin the critical Christmas trading period for independent retailers.

Leading suppliers insisted they were able to handle the bumper Christmas orders required to stock up shops ahead of a huge festive season, despite a national recruitment crisis involving lorry drivers and production workers.

Bosses at supermarket giants Tesco and Iceland have warned of possible empty shelves this December as the food supply chain grapples with a massive shortage of key workers. 

The recruitment crisis has largely been attributed to migrants returning home during COVID-19 lockdowns and being unable to return because of changes to visa rules post-Brexit.

Organisations including the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, the Food and Drink Federation and the National Farmers’ Union in August urged ministers to create a new 12-month visa to help tackle the shortage.

Paul Hargreaves, chief executive of Berkshire-based fine food wholesaler Cotswold Fayre, told FFD “everyone is worried” about supply chain shortages.

“Goods that go out on the pallet network are running late,” he said. “The potential issue is goods coming into our warehouse, which is starting to have an impact on our fulfilment levels. If something is three days late coming in then it obviously has a knock-on effect.

“We are working hard on this most days and it is a headache,” he added. “The drivers on our contracts have been given a pay rise. There is massive pressure and it is not going away before Christmas.

“All our customers want goods in early. September is looking huge, bigger than October. But we should be OK as long as the problem doesn’t get worse.”

Nick Carlucci, sales director at Tenuta Marmorelle, said the importer had worked hard to bring a large volume of Christmas produce over from Italy before the country’s traditional August shutdown. “We took the same approach that we took with Brexit – getting stock in early,” he said.

“We have a lot of customers who want Christmas products in quite late this year, early November, after Hallowe’en, as any occasion is a big occasion since lockdown. But we have it in the warehouse already.”

The firm has purchased its own delivery vehicle and is looking to add to its fleet.

“We are very confident of fulfilling our orders in the run-up to Christmas. I would just urge retailers to get their orders in early and speak to their suppliers – keep them in the loop.” 

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