A number of UK retailers have spoken out about the supply chain challenges facing supermarkets, as the driver shortage threatens to derail pre-Christmas stocking.
Earlier this week, John Allan, chairman of Tesco spoke to BBC Radio 4 about his concerns over the issue, saying that the “straightforward solution” would be to enable UK businesses to source skilled drivers from elsewhere, a process that has become more challenging as a result of Brexit.
“I think certainly Brexit has been a contributor to that, but also improving economies, higher wages in some of the countries that they’ve come from historically, have also led to that flow," he was quoted as saying by Retail Gazette.
Elsewhere, Steve Murrells, the chief executive of The Co-Operative, told The Times that he believed the shortages to be at a "worse level than at any time I have seen,” noting that product shortages are likely as a result of the situation.
He cited "Brexit and issues caused by COVID" as the core reason for the challenges.
'Sounding The Alarm'
Iceland's Richard Walker, meanwhile, said that the retailer was "sounding the alarm now" so as to avoid shortages on the shelves as Christmas approaches.
"We start to stock-build from September onwards for what is a hugely important time of year," he was quoted as saying by the BBC. "We've got a lot of goods to transport between now and Christmas and a strong supply chain is vital for everyone."
He added that Iceland is having "about 30 to 40 deliveries a day" cancelled as a result of the ongoing challenges.
High street baker Greggs has also weighed in on the issue, saying that the business was facing supply chain interruptions on certain ingredients, particularly chicken.
"Unfortunately, like others, we're seeing temporary interruptions in supply for some ingredients which occasionally results in shops not being able to maintain full availability on all lines", a Greggs spokesperson said in an emailed statement seen by Reuters.
In July, the boss of Premier Foods urged the government to 'bring in the army' to alleviate the driver shortage, while the UK Road Haulage Association has accused the authorities of 'dodging the question' as to how the issue can be resolved.
Commenting on the burgeoning supply chain crisis, Andy Halliwell, senior director, retail at consultancy Publicis Sapient, said, "It’s said that stock levels at the major retailers are at their lowest levels since at least the 1980s, caused by worker shortages due to Brexit and the pandemic as well as pandemic-induced supply chain disruption all exaggerated by an increased demand for goods.
"Ultimately, when it comes to supply chain issues, the fundamental issue is just getting the products to the right location in a timely fashion. This is where technology can play a leading role. Predictive analytics and control towers can help notify retailers of problems earlier to help them plan and react more effectively. In addition, retailers can run simulations using digital twins to identify what products are at risk of causing order issues.”