Business groups have warned that a combination of Brexit, resulting in a mass exodus of heavy truck drivers, combined with pandemic-related staff shortages in the manufacturing sector will lead to shortages of goods this Christmas and urged consumers to get orders “nice and early” this year or risk missing out. Scottish toy retailers have warned they are already seeing signs of shortages, with suppliers reaching out to tell them some toys may be in short supply as the holiday season approaches.
There is currently a shortage of around 90,000 heavy truck drivers, putting increasingly unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains, dragged down by around 25,000 European drivers returning to their countries of origin due to the pandemic .
A spokesperson for the Federation of Small Businesses of Scotland said: ‘While skills and labor shortages are reported across the economy, the shortage of heavy truck drivers is preventing the many companies to make the most of the fragile recovery.
âA number of industry groups – including the FSB – have made constructive suggestions to the government both to resolve the current problem and to prevent us from facing similar problems in the future. These include temporary work visas granted to EU drivers and measures to speed up the qualification of UK drivers.
âHowever, we also know that the pandemic, along with other factors, continues to disrupt global supply chains. These factors are obviously beyond the control of local, independent businesses, which is why we urge consumers to be as understanding as possible. So, for example, it wouldn’t hurt as Christmas approaches to get your orders out early to local businesses.
Donald Nairn, owner of Toys Galore in Edinburgh’s Morningside district, said most suppliers had already hiked their prices before predicted shortages and rising costs.
“At least half of them have increased the prices they charge us and although we do our best to absorb it, there will invariably be price increases, I think, in the second half of the year. “, did he declare. “They also have issues with delivery drivers and other Covid and Brexit ripple effects.”
He added, âWe’re basically ordering as much stock as possible right now, so we have things to sell over Christmas.
âSome of the things that I foresee will be incredibly rare, like the Barbies for example. It’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly where the problem will be, but I think if we do as much as we can now, we should be in a reasonably good position. before Christmas, however, there will be shortages. “
Driver shortage is ‘biggest post-Brexit roadblock’ for the trucking industry
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Policy Officer at the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), said: âThe continuing shortage of heavy truck drivers, coupled with the current challenges of global shipping, has created some minor disruptions in supply chains. These issues are currently managed by retailers who work closely with suppliers to ensure consumers remain able to access the same wide range of products.
âMaking sure stores are ready for Christmas is a key priority for the industry. Already, retailers are taking all steps in their power to mitigate potential challenges, including paying extra to secure truck drivers and bringing in non-perishable goods early or via alternative routes, to avoid a last-minute rush. on shipments. Nevertheless, the challenges facing the industry are real and the sooner the government is able to act better. For consumers, we would always advise that it is best to plan for Christmas shopping early and early, especially now that many shoppers choose to shop online.
The SRC, along with sister organization British Retail Consortium and Logistics UK, have written to the UK government to call for action on the situation. They want the government to review the decision not to grant temporary work visas to EU heavy truck drivers, ensure that government skills and training programs support the recruitment of heavy truck drivers and increase continuously testing capacity to avoid border delays.
The letter read: “The impacts on retail supply chains are now starting to be felt and we fear the situation is already getting worse.”
He added: âThroughout the pandemic, heavy truck drivers have been the backbone of the economy, keeping businesses and homes across the country supplied with the goods and services they need. We need BEIS to work with us to ensure that the government provides a clear roadmap and tangible support to the industry to ensure that our stores can continue to deliver what the country needs every day. “
Last week, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association warned that in addition to a lack of staff availability, pubs and restaurants face issues with the supply chain, which could potentially lead to a shortage of beer and even of crisps. In addition to beer delivery issues, there are also concerns about the supply of CO2 and nitrogen gas, which are needed to serve the products on draft.
A UK government spokesperson said: ‘We recently announced a package of measures to help tackle the truck driver shortage, including plans to streamline the process for new drivers to obtain their driver’s license. heavy goods vehicles and increase the number of tests that can be performed.
“We have also temporarily relaxed the rules on driver schedules to allow truck drivers to make slightly longer journeys, but these should only be used when needed and should not compromise safety. driver safety. “