Supermarkets Sainsbury’s, Iceland and Co-op have revealed they are suffering from stock shortages as concerns grow about the impact of the so-called “pingemia”.
Sainsbury’s, Britain’s second largest supermarket, said it “might not always have” the products customers want while Iceland revealed it was also affected and urged customers not to not store.
Co-op said it was “lacking in some products” while Lidl said the situation was “getting more and more difficult” and starting to impact operations.
Empty shelves have been seen in a number of supermarket chains.
It came like commercial secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government was “very concerned” about the disruption to businesses as COVID-19 alerts force workers to self-isolate.
The pingemia – in some cases combined with problems caused by shortages of truck drivers – has caused growing problems for UK businesses over the past week:
• The British Retail Consortium said it is “increasing pressure on the ability of retailers to maintain opening hours and stock shelves”.
• BP said it had encountered fuel supply problems at some of its UK service stations and closed “a handful of sites” temporarily due to lack of diesel and unleaded fuels.
• Sky News revealed a shortage patio gas cylinders – used for barbecues – caused by high demand combined with supply problems and worsened by pingemia.
• UK Hospitality trading organization said of one fifth of workers in pubs, hotels and restaurants have self-isolated.
• Green King said it was due to close 33 pubs while Wetherspoons said in a few cases some were due to open hours later than normal and another chain of pubs, Young’s, said hundreds of its employees were in leave.
• AA Managing Director Jakob Pfaudler emailed customers apologizing to those who “may have waited longer than usual” because call centers have been “affected by the recent increase in the Delta variant “.
• Manufacturing organization Make UK said about a fifth of factory workers were on leave.
• Car maker Vauxhall has reduced the number of teams at its Luton plant from three to two.
• Hundreds of workers have isolated themselves at Britain’s largest auto plant in Sunderland.
• Rolls-Royce cars said the situation had pushed him to a “tipping point” which could mean he would have to cut production in half.
• Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe said the number of lone employees means the chain may have to cut hours of operation.
• Tim Morris, managing director of the UK Major Ports Group, said a number of large port operators said 10% of their staff were working.
• The British Meat Processors Association said it also faces shortages and if the situation deteriorates further, some production lines may have to be shut down completely
• Long queues were seen at heathrow last week after security personnel were asked to self-isolate
Sky News has reached out to a number of major retailers to ask how they are being affected.
Sainsbury’s said in a statement: “We are working hard to make sure customers can find what they need.
“While we don’t always have the exact product a customer is looking for in every store, large quantities of product are delivered to stores daily and our colleagues are focused on getting them to shelves as quickly as possible. “
Iceland Managing Director Richard Walker said: “We are seeing stockouts in stores, both due to staff absences caused by the crisis and the current shortage of truck drivers.
“We need absolute clarity from the government as soon as possible, including a list of Test and Trace self-isolation exemptions, to include all retail workers and heavy truck drivers. “
Mr Walker said in response that the channel was recruiting 2,000 new workers. He said earlier this week that he had to close a number of stores, with 1,000 employees laid off due to COVID.
He added: “We urge people to avoid stocking and buying responsibly – the industry is working hard to fix the problem and panic buying will only increase the pressure on retail workers who have worked tirelessly to feed the nation throughout the pandemic. “
A Co-op spokesperson said, “We’re sorry to run out of some products.
“Like many retailers, we are affected by uneven disruption to our deliveries and in-store operations, but we are working closely with our suppliers to restock quickly.”
The cooperative recruits up to 3,000 temporary colleagues to operate the depots and restock the stores.
A spokesperson for Lidl said: “Like all other retailers, the situation is getting more and more difficult as we have more and more colleagues who have to isolate themselves after being warned by the Track and Trace system.
“As this begins to impact our operations, our teams are working hard to minimize any disruption to customers.”
Business leaders have called on the government to bring forward the date on which fully vaccinated people who receive an alert about close contact with a confirmed COVID case no longer have to self-isolate.
Currently, the rule change is scheduled for August 16 and ministers have said that will not change.