Labour shortages impacting availability – shopper research 19-21 November 2021

Date : 23 November 2021

Availability issues

Operational labour and HGV driver shortages has become severe enough to disrupt food supply chains. Food and consumer good businesses have been hit hard by recruitment and retention challenges in 2020 and 2021. This is resulting in lower order fulfilment levels than normal, meaning there is an impact on availability of some food and groceries.

The government has committed to a package of support including the issuing of temporary visas for HGV drivers. Download our Viewpoint: A harsh winter ahead? report for more insight.

In the latest shopper research conducted for IGD over this last weekend 19-21 November 2021, more adults interviewed experienced shortages of some food and groceries in-store or online recently.

  • 68% of adults claim to have experienced shortages of some food and groceries in-store or online recently, compared to 64% two weeks ago. This is the highest level recorded since we started measuring this in July.
  • Concerns are highest in Eastern England (78%), Northern Ireland and the South East (76% each).

  • Claimed shortages are highest for savoury snacks (23%). This has increased significantly over the last two weeks and follows production issues at Walkers. Other categories where claimed shortages are highest include fresh produce (21%), bakery (15%), soft drinks, dairy and fresh meat or fish (14% each).

Stable stockpiling

There has been little change in the number of adults who have recently felt the need to stock up or purchase more than they normally do. A third (32%) have recently felt the need to stock up or purchase more than they normally do, a similar level compared to two weeks ago (34%). This is still relatively low compared to 50% in January’21 and a high of 64% in April’20.

There has also been little change in the number who say they will or might stock up (37% vs 35% two weeks ago). This is still much lower than the 60% recorded in March’20.

Four in ten in London and the north of England claim to have stocked up recently compared to just 26% in Eastern England. Stockpiling is also highest among those aged 18-24 (49%), 24-44 (37%), ABC1s (37%) and those with children at home (36%).

Category differences

The chart above compares the categories being stocked up and the categories that shoppers claim to be in shorter supply.

  • The top categories that are being stocked up remain tins and packaged foods (11%) and household paper (10%). These are followed by alcohol (7%) and hand sanitizer (6%).
  • Claimed shortages are highest for savoury snacks (23%). Other categories where claimed shortages are highest include fresh produce (21%), bakery (15%), soft drinks, dairy and fresh meat or fish (14% each).

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