Labour shortages impacting availability – shopper research 03-05 September 2021

Date : 06 September 2021

Availability concerns slip back


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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 03-05 September 2021, there has been a decline in the number of shoppers 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, down from 62% last weekend.
  • Concerns are highest in in the North West (70%) and Scotland (68%).
  • Claimed shortages are again highest for fresh produce (20%), followed by soft drinks (16%), dairy (14%), bakery (13%), fresh meat or fish (12%), household paper and chilled products (11% each).

Lower stockpiling


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Fewer adults (33%) have recently felt the need to stock up or purchase more than they normally do, down from 38% last weekend. This is still relatively low (50% in January’21 and a high of 64% in April’20).

There has also been a decline in the number who say they will or might stock up. This has declined to 36% compared to 45% last weekend. This is still much lower than the 60% recorded in March’20.

Stockpiling remains highest among those aged 18-24 (40%), ABs (36%) and 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 (10% each). These are followed by cereals (8%), hand sanitizer, household products and alcohol (7% each).

These are mainly different to the top categories that shoppers claim to be in short supply (fresh produce (20%) soft drinks (16%), dairy (14%) and bakery (13%)).

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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