Labour shortages impacting shopper availability – shopper research 20-22 August 2021

Date : 23 August 2021

Stable availability concerns


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Although absence rates relating to COVID-19 are thought to be falling, broader operational labour and HGV driver shortages are continuing to create challenges for supply chains.

This is resulting in lower order fulfilment levels than normal, meaning there is some impact on availability of food and groceries.

In the latest shopper research conducted for IGD over this last weekend 20-22 August 2021, a similar number of shoppers are experiencing availability issues for some food and grocery categories.

  • 56% of adults claim to have experienced shortages of some food and groceries in-store or online recently, slightly up from 54% last weekend.
  • Concerns are highest in Northern Ireland (64%), Eastern England (63%) and Scotland (63%).
  • Claimed shortages are again highest for fresh produce (20% vs 21% last week), soft drinks (17%), dairy (15%), fresh meat or fish (13%), bakery (11%), household paper and chilled (10% each).

Stable stockpiling


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Slightly more adults (31%) have recently felt the need to stock up or purchase more than they normally do, up from 28% last weekend. This is still relatively low (50% in January’21 and a high of 64% in April’20).

Just under a third (31%) also say they will or might stock up. This has not changed since last weekend. However, this is still lower than in Jan’21 (45%) and 60% March’20.

Stockpiling is highest among those living in London (44%).

Category differences


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The table above shows that the top categories that are being stocked up. These include tins and packaged foods and household paper (11% each). These are followed by household products (laundry, cleaning items) (7%), alcohol, frozen, hand sanitizer, medicines and cereals (6% each).

These are mainly different to the top categories that shoppers claim to be in short supply (fresh produce (20%) soft drinks (17%) and dairy (15%).

Government action

All adults in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who have been fully vaccinated no longer have to self-isolate if they are identified as close contacts of someone with COVID-19.

The government has put in place daily contact testing in England at critical workplaces to help alleviate absence issues.

Businesses are encouraged to continue with daily contact testing for employees who have not been fully vaccinated.

DEFRA is keeping under review absence levels in all parts of the food supply chain and is requesting businesses complete this absence tracking survey as frequently as possible.

The Scottish government has announced asymptomatic workplace testing for organisations with ten or more employees.

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