'It's been a struggle': Supply issues continue to impact city retailers

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Akbar Dhanji from Simply Fabrics at the city market talks about supply chain issues impacting his business

From butchers to fruit and vegetable sellers to construction and gardening industry and even the city council’s waste collection company- everyone seems to be affected. 

A few weeks ago customers reported supermarket chain Waitrose was out of cucumbers and fresh fish due to a lorry-driver shortage, while some shoppers said Tesco had run-out of white bread and some household cleaning products due to a delay in deliveries. Popular restaurants including Nando’s and McDonalds also said they had run out of key Ingredients.  

There has been much debate from consumers on what to blame - the B-word (Brexit) or the C-word (Covid) or perhaps something else for the crisis. 

Retailers say it is a combination of things. 

Akbar Dhanji has been running Simply Fabrics at the city market for over three decades. He says he is starting to see a ‘big’ rise in importer and wholesale prices for materials and believes it could only get “worse”. 

Mr Dhanji said: “We have suffered. It’s a combination of factors. It’s very difficult to get materials. 

“Prices have gone up a lot – I work with both suppliers and importers.

"Importers supply to wholesalers who then give it to retailers, so that’s the chain. But sometimes I bypass wholesalers because I have some contacts for over the years, so I buy a small quantity of materials from importers.  

"Their shelves in the warehouse are normally full, but they are running empty now. 

"So, I asked what’s going on – they said they used to pay around £4,000 for one container of goods coming from China, Japan, Indonesia or elsewhere. That price has shot up to £14,000 now.  

“They can’t pin-point just one reason. They have informed me that a lot of small shipment companies couldn’t survive the pandemic and have shut so there’s a monopoly for the larger shipment businesses now. 

“Another reason is there was a huge demand for cloth to make PPE over the last few months. 

“The raw materials to make the fabrics in the warehouses that were kept as a backstock started to get used. 

"Cotton and other materials were not getting picked up where they are grown due to Covid and so nothing was coming out from there. And even if it’s picked it goes into storage for a year or so, but because of the pandemic, nothing was being replenished and all the supplies were being used. Suddenly there’s a shortage of raw materials to make the fabrics. 

“I know they are talking about the lorry driver shortage but this is the big factor behind it. 

“My table cloths and other items come from Europe and again it’s the same thing- nothing is coming in and I have been waiting for the supply since December. 

“Even small things like metal pins used in sewing- there is a shortage for that too. I can’t specifically say if Brexit has had an impact or it’s the only reason- but it’s a combination of factors really for the supply chain crisis."

Phil Woodland from Woodland Butchers based at the Food Hall within the city market echoed similar concerns with the supply chains. 

He said: “A lot of foreigners have gone back home so a lot of lorry trade has been impacted. That’s just started to affect meat deliveries for us.  

“A friend who works in Tesco and said they had to throw away two trucks worth of fresh food because there was no one to deliver it. 

“Why are we so reliant on drivers from Europe to deliver - where are all the other people who can drive? It's a poor old show, just ridiculous. 

“The farmers are feeling the impact. Because of the lack of drivers- the feed prices has gone up so the meat prices have gone up- that's having a knock-on effect.” 

Food Hall neighbours Pop Fishmongers have been impacted as well and they say it’s a 'consequence of Brexit', with a struggle to get supplies of some fish from countries such as India which comes via a European port.

Members of the public working in the construction industry and landscaping trade said they have seen "jump" in prices of materials which has impacted customer prices. 

Some have also reported they are seeing a shortage for certain materials used for paving and landscaping example the Indian Sandstone due to the Covid impact in the home country where it’s manufactured. 

One landscaper reported: " To give you an example of the challenges, the price I am quoting customers today is at least £300 more than what i would have done a few months ago for the same job - simply because of the demand for the service and shortage of materials. So we have to pay more for the raw materials which puts the service price up."

Meanwhile a survey suggests, more than a quarter of UK consumers have already started their Christmas shopping and 45% plan to avoid major online retailers this year as the pandemic and supply chain issues affect shopping behaviour. 

Some 48% of consumers aim to buy fewer but bigger, more considerate gifts this year, with just over half (51%) having more savings set aside as a result of decreased spending over the past year, according to the Holiday Shopping Trends 2021 report for digital experience platform Sitecore. 

The poll found 48% are planning to start Christmas shopping by October and 28% have already started. 

Retailers ranging from toy chains to supermarkets have warned that supply chain issues, largely due to a shortage of lorry drivers, could affect stock levels this Christmas.