Last month we wrote about the lorry driver shortage in our article Lorry Driver Shortages Lead To Supply Chain Issues. This month, with Christmas not that far away, we look at Christmas and supply chains. The government view was employers needing to focus on investing in our domestic workforce rather than ask for help by relaxing Brexit immigration rules that would potentially allow, for a temporary period, the use of foreign talent to fill the gap.
Having lost almost 50,000 drivers in the last two years from a combination of the pandemic and Brexit, this has left hauliers in difficult position to keep lorries on the road which then has an impact on businesses in various sectors struggling to keep up with demand. It is estimated, that currently, there is a shortfall of 90,000 to 100,000 drivers.
Transport Secretary dealing with Christmas and supply chains
So the question is, can the government aid the guarantee of sufficient drivers in the run up to Christmas. Recently, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, in response to the HGV staff shortage, told the Commons it was ‘not in the hands’ of the Government to make the guarantee.
Mr Shapps announced to Parliament on additional measures “which will significantly increase the number of HGV driving tests by up to 50,000 per year”. In 2019, only 9,000 tests were completed; this is before Brexit and the pandemic so it may not be possible to train up sufficient staff to cover the current shortfall for some time. This suggests that the government’s answer is no to guaranteeing sufficient driver numbers.
Retailers dealing with Christmas and supply chains
So what do retailers who are popular at Christmas believe the shopper should be doing. The boss of Iceland, which specialises in frozen foods, has warned ongoing delivery issues could effectively ‘cancel’ Christmas, as supermarkets struggle to replenish shelves due to a delivery driver shortage. Richard Walker, the managing director of Iceland; ‘stores were selling out of bread and “struggling to replenish as quickly as we need”.
Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Asda are considered the big four in the market for groceries, all have seen shelves left empty in recent weeks but this was primarily exacerbated by the ‘pingdemic’.
Ongoing delivery issues could effectively ‘cancel’ Christmas, or most certainly some parts that we take for granted, as supermarkets struggle to replenish shelves due to a delivery driver shortage.
So how are the supermarkets dealing with this potential problem? When it comes to selling Christmas specific items, some supermarkets have stocked up early on the usual products and are encouraging shoppers to buy early so as not to be disappointed. Of course, some would suggest that supermarkets have always stocked and sold Christmas products earlier and earlier every year so it’s possible shoppers may not noticed why they’re seeing these products even earlier than usual.
M&S Christmas food to order service
This service has been axed in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland where M&S has almost 40 stores, 20 in Northern Ireland and 18 in the Republic of Ireland. M&S the British company said there was “too much risk that we could potentially let customers down”, citing challenges to the food industry. This is in response to removing the service where customers could place click and collect orders from the M&S’s festive catalogue and have it in time for Christmas.
Brexit and Christmas
Any Christmas shoppers ordering early have been warned to avoid getting caught out by unexpected post-Brexit charges when buying gifts from the EU (European Union). Changes introduced on January 1 this year mean some UK shoppers buying presents for friends and family from EU businesses may need to pay customs charges when their goods are delivered.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) warned that people buying excise goods – tobacco or alcohol – or ordering luxury items or presents in consignments worth more than £135 will be affected.
Which has a helpful article Online shopping: do I have to pay VAT, import and handling costs? covering most questions a shopper may want to consider to avoid any pitfalls.
Christmas will still be here in just over three months’ time. It may be a little unusual than before in the sense that we will need to plan earlier, much earlier, if there are certain things that we simply must have for the festive season or get done in the time. Don’t forget to fill up the tank if you’re travelling!