Tuesday 6 July 2021 3:30 pm

Driver shortages leave gaps on Sainsbury's shelves

The boss of Sainsbury’s has admitted the supermarket has struggle to source all of its usual products in wake of a serious lorry driver shortage that has affected multiple sectors.

Speaking today following Sainsbury’s quarterly results, CEO Simon Roberts said the supermarket giant had been unable to stock all its usual products because of driver shortages.

“We are getting products to store, but not necessarily every product,” he said.

“We’re working hard to make sure we can maintain availability but clearly there are challenges in the upward supply chain.”

Last month industry leaders warned Britain could face gaps on supermarket shelves this summer and an “unimaginable” collapse of supply chains after the pandemic and Brexit led to a shortage of more than 100,000 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.

Last week Mr Kipling manufacturer Premier Foods called on the government to consider using the army to distribute goods to help to relieve the shortage.

Sales for the first quarter of its financial year have soared at Sainsbury’s beyond what they were pre-pandemic, as Covid-19 led to more at-home consumption.

Total retail sales at the supermarket, excluding fuel sales, were up 10.3 per cent higher in Q1 than they were for the same period two years ago, and 1.6 per cent up on the same period last year, when the country was under the harshest Covid restrictions.  

The supermarket said it is now expecting underlying profit before tax of at least £660m for the year.

Factoring in fuel, which has boomed in demand at the business since the same period last year, up 95.1 per cent, but was down versus the same period two years ago, retail sales still stood 6.2 per cent higher than Q1 2019.  

Grocery sales were up 0.8 per cent on Q1 2020, but demand for clothing rocketed, up 57.6 per cent on 2020, and up 15.5 per cent from 2019.

Following publication of its results, Sainsbury’s share price rose 0.42 per cent an hour after the market open.

Sainsbury’s is now turning its attention to value for money, and has launched a campaign to price match many of its items with Aldi.

CEO Simon Roberts said: “We are focused on offering our customers even better value and regularly creating new and exciting products for them to try.

“From today we are reducing prices by £50 million on everyday products from strawberries and cherries to bacon and potatoes, helping customers make the most of this summer. I’m delighted that customers are responding to the changes we are making and that we are growing our market share.”

‘A hard year to follow’

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and market analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Gaining customer loyalty has been the name of the game for Sainsbury’s and it’s paying off. 

“The company is winning market share, and crucially hanging onto new shoppers who tried out the delivery services for the first time during the pandemic. Investment in its online platform continues to pay off with sales up 29 per cent year on year during the quarter and up 142 per cent on a two-year basis. 

“The grocery sector is still benefiting from more in-home dining due to ongoing social restrictions and this trend is tailing off as social restrictions are lifting, so the past year will be a tough act to follow for Sainsbury’s.”