Labour shortages impacting availability – shopper research 10-12 September 2021

Date : 13 September 2021

Availability concerns increase


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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 an impact on availability of some food and groceries.

In the latest shopper research conducted for IGD over this last weekend 10-12 September 2021, there has been an increase in the number of adults interviewed who experienced shortages of some food and groceries in-store or online recently.

  • 61% of adults claim to have experienced shortages of some food and groceries in-store or online recently, up from 56% last weekend.
  • Despite this increase, there is no upward trend.
  • Concerns are highest in Scotland (69%), Northern Ireland (68%), London (66%) and the South East (65%)
  • Claimed shortages are again highest for fresh produce (21%), followed by soft drinks (18%), dairy (14%), bakery, fresh meat or fish (12% each), household paper, chilled products, cereals and frozen products (11% each).

Lower stockpiling


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For the second week running there has been a decline in the number of adults who have recently felt the need to stock up or purchase more than they normally do (26% vs 33% last weekend and 38% two weeks ago). This is the lowest level that has been recorded and compares to 50% in January’21 and a high of 64% in April’20.

There has been little change in the number who say they will or might stock up (35% compared to 36% last weekend). This is still much lower than the 60% recorded in March’20.

Stockpiling remains highest among those aged 18-24 (44%), ABs (33%) and those living in London (36%).

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 (9%). These are followed by hand sanitizer and household products (6% each).

These are mainly different to the top categories that shoppers claim to be in short supply which includes fresh produce (21%), followed by soft drinks (18%), dairy (14%), bakery, fresh meat or fish (12% each), household paper, chilled products, cereals and frozen products (11% each).

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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