A minister admitted yesterday that there would be Christmas shortages while a port boss warned consumers: “Let’s not kid ourselves”.
Ports are crowded, store shelves empty, the threat of truck strikes looms and experts have warned the cost of Christmas is going to skyrocket.
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps admitted he couldn’t guarantee families wouldn’t face shortages when shopping for Christmas favorites.
He said, “We can all be together, we can buy things, there will be food on the table. “
But he added, “I cannot guarantee that every line of every product will be available. It’s at that level, rather than thinking that Christmas will have to be called off and upset children all over the country.
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps admitted he couldn’t guarantee families wouldn’t face shortages when shopping for Christmas favorites
However, Tim Morris, head of the Major Ports Group, which represents major commercial ports, said consumers should take government assurances with a pinch of salt.
He added, “This week has seen improvements in what we call stack levels, so the amount of containers, for example, has sat on the ground. But let’s not kid ourselves.
Shipping giant Maersk has diverted some ships from Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port, to rivals on the continent.
The chaos has led many to suggest that Britain will face a winter of rising prices and empty shelves.
A woman pushes a shopping cart along a bare pasta aisle at a Tesco branch in south London
Families have already started buying panic toys, a top retail boss said, as brands such as Barbie and Lego warned they were selling at “Christmas quantities.”
Unions threaten a winter of discontent, with a wave of strikes over wages and conditions. Unite says he could take his 50,000 truckers off the road despite the supply chain crisis.
There are also threats to shut down universities, rail links, municipal services and schools in what could be one of the biggest strike periods since 1979.
The government has policies in place to try to fill some of the 90,000 vacant truck driver positions.
But attempts to encourage 5,000 European drivers to come with temporary visas have failed, with only a handful having accepted the offer.
Supermarkets have been mocked for filling the empty shelves with bizarre items to make stores less naked. Pictured: a Co-op store in Hertfordshire
A Gloucester Asda store that has filled empty shelves with Lynx Africa is pictured this week
Meanwhile, boxes of chocolate such as Quality Street, Celebrations, and Dairy Milk have been thrown into fruit and vegetable locations. Pictured: a Tesco in Heaton, Newcastle
He says he also introduced rules to allow overseas truckers to make unlimited pick-ups and drop-offs here, adding the equivalent of 1,000 drivers on the road by New Year.
Currently, EU carriers can only make two trips to drop off or collect goods between locations in the UK in a week.
But the change has sparked fury from the UK logistics industry, which has said it will ‘sabotage’ UK drivers by letting foreigners cut wages.
Consumers are seeing missing products in parts of supermarkets, largely due to delivery issues and a shortage of C02 used in thousands of products
Other measures announced by the government to tackle the shortage of truck drivers include increasing the number of tests, simplifying the testing process and creating training courses for up to 5,000 trainees.
Retailers have responded by pushing wages for new drivers above £ 50,000 and offering significant login bonuses.
The supply chaos has led some consumers to rush to get gifts and food for Christmas, with a major retailer reporting a panic buy this week.
Henry Birch, Managing Director of Very and Littlewoods, said: “I was amused when Conservative Chairman Oliver Dowden said there was no reason to panic about buying toys, and what we saw, these are products that fly off our virtual shelves and people who panic buying toys.
Containers pile up at Felixstowe, Britain’s largest container port, in another pre-Christmas crisis as it takes ten days instead of five for each to be moved due to a lack of drivers heavy goods vehicles and port personnel
Ikea and Nestlé are among huge companies who say their products are harassed due to a shortage of truck drivers that hits all parts of British life
The atmosphere is one that is more nervous about the availability of products. The next few months are unpredictable.
Figures from Kantar business analysts revealed that the sale of cosmetic gift boxes doubled in September, compared to the same month last year, as shoppers rushed to buy Christmas presents earlier.
Sales of baby toys and gift wrap increased by a tenth, while stores sold 15% more games and puzzles than in the same period a year ago.