Supply chain crisis: retailers seek advantage as they compete to win race to stock shelves for Xmas

Thu 11 Nov 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

xmas warehouse

Retailers are putting on a brave face as they hope for a good ‘golden quarter’ leading up to Christmas in the midst of ongoing supply chain difficulties.

The festive shopping season has kicked off in the past week as major players unveiled their high profile Christmas marketing campaigns.

This year however, they will be more concerned than ever about being able to fulfil customers’ needs.

John Lewis launched its ad campaign a week earlier than usual due to concerns about global supply chain disruption, claims Forbes.

Chartered vessels

Searching for competitive advantage, the upmarket retailer has taken the step of chartering its own ships this year and increasing drivers’ wages to ensure it has stock for Christmas shoppers, reports the Independent.

The nation’s favourite food retailer Marks & Spencer has said it does not expect Christmas food shortages, but has warned of price rises into the New Year.

Revealing its half-year results this week, CEO Steve Rowe said that M&S is set up “to deliver a great Christmas for our customers” and promised shoppers there won’t be “any shortages of pigs in blankets at Marks & Spencer”, reports the Grocer.

However, retail analysts have told the Mirror that M&S is facing delays of around three weeks for non-food items such as clothing.

“In C&H [clothing and home] we understand M&S is experiencing stock delays broadly in line with the industry (that is, around three-week delays),” analyst JP Morgan Casenove said.

Wine trains

Also in the Mirror, supermarkets have turned to “wine trains” to ensure that Britain has enough booze for the festive period.

With a shortage of up to 100,000 HGV drivers, extra trains are being laid on to transport wine to supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

The first freight train carrying 643,000 bottles reportedly left the port of Tilbury last weekend.

As previously covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, Tesco has increased its use of rail freight to bring fresh produce from Spain, in response to the driver shortage.

Strike threat

Sainsbury’s stores in the south west may face pre-Christmas shortages if DHL lorry drivers strike action over a pay dispute, reports the Grocer.

The ballot is set to open today (11 November) and close on 25 November. Unite said that if the drivers vote for strike action, these could begin as early as the second week of December.

According to Wales Online, discount retailer B&M has said it is “fully stocked” heading into Christmas.

Chief executive Simon Arora said: “We have responded decisively to supply chain challenges by leveraging our strong supplier relationships and we have improved in-store execution.”

Shop early

Sky reports that shoppers are buying Christmas gifts earlier than usual because of worries about supply chain problems.

It reports a poll by Barclaycard that around a third said they were changing their approach to festive shopping this year due to fears over shortages, with more than half of these bringing forward purchases.

Toys shortage

According to manufacturers quoted in the Guardian, Britain will face a shortage of toys this Christmas due to a combination of shipping capacity, Brexit, Covid and power shortages in China.

“Every week is a battle for us trying to get product on to vessels,” said Nick Mowbray, founder of Zuru Toys which has a factory in south-east China.

Meanwhile iNews reports ONS figures today that UK economic growth slowed sharply to 1.3% between July and September – down from 5.5% on the months before as supply chain problems hampered recovery.