A shortage of qualified heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers and production delays in East Asia due to Covid-19 restrictions have slowed down the delivery of products to the UK. Supply chain problems in the UK are predominantly driven by changes to immigration rules after Brexit, which led to a lack of HGV drivers in the UK and have affected the availability of a range of goods.

Retailers, including B&M, The Works and Boots, have noted that their customers are preparing for Christmas earlier than ever, as shoppers are preparing for Christmas in advance to avoid any disappointment amid potential stock issues following global supply chain disruptions. A GlobalData consumer survey found that 60.8% of consumers had already started their Christmas shopping in October 2021, compared to 48.6% in 2020. It found that 40.6% of those that started their Christmas shopping early did so because of supply chain issues.

Retailers are strategising how they will meet the demands of the festive season

The traditional means of meeting consumer demands during the festive season include retailers setting a limit on how many customers can enter the store during a single period, hiring temporary staff to reduce the pressures on permanent retail workers, and extending their operating hours to avoid the hustle and bustle of desperate last-minute shoppers.

However, following a year of intermittent lockdowns, consumers have saved an overall of £200bn across the UK and 54% are willing to spend more this Christmas, according to Bdaily. This is further supported by a GlobalData survey that found almost half (49.3%) of consumers agreed with the following statement: ‘I expect to spend more on Christmas shopping this year as my friends/family deserve more of a treat after the Covid-19 pandemic’. To ensure that they can meet customer demand during the busiest time of the year, some retailers are adopting more innovative measures.

Some retailers have taken this to the next level by hiring dedicated trains and chartered cargo ships. On November 30, Tesco launched its new train service, which runs from Essex to Scotland, to distribute its stock. The train holds approximately 40 HGVs worth of stock. According to the Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics, Tesco’s freight train can deliver the same equivalent as 1,000 lorries in a single day. Retailers previously planned to shift to rail transport as it is more sustainable, but HGV driver shortages in the UK have accelerated the adoption of rail freight. Kraft Heinz has been testing using rail freight to keep up with Christmas demand and will likely be quick to follow Tesco’s lead. Meanwhile, John Lewis and Asda have chartered their own cargo ships. Asda has equipped its cargo ship with 350 containers to carry festive stock from Asia to the UK amid supply chain concerns.