Monday 11 January 2021 11:28 am

Ocado sounds alarm on product availability as supermarket shelves stand empty

Ocado has warned that the availability of some products is being impacted by coronavirus-related staff absences in its supply chain.  

With more staff off sick or forced to isolate some grocery suppliers are having to consolidate their lines.

Read more: Ocado lifts full-year profit forecast following home delivery boom during pandemic

“Staff absences across the supply chain may lead to an increase in product substitutions for a small number of customers as some suppliers consolidate their offering to maintain output,” a spokesperson for the online supermarket said.

Supermarket groups are also concerned that new customs procedures as part of Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union could impact supplies.

Read more: Gove expects Brexit delays at the border with France and Ireland to worsen

Last week Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, Britain’s second and fourth largest supermarket chains, said goods were flowing from continental Europe so far.

But in recent days there has been evidence to suggest supermarkets are not fully stocked, with images of empty shelves, particularly in the fruit and veg department, circulating on Twitter. 

One user in Cambridge tweeted an image of a virtually bare vegetable aisle in Sainsbury’s.

Elsewhere a Northern Ireland user snapped a picture of the bread aisle at Sainsbury’s, which showed empty shelves and only a handful of loaves left.

Another user took a photo of the fruit and veg section in a London Sainsbury’s at 10:15am on Saturday, showing sparse shelves.

A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s told City A.M.: “Due to an operational issue at one of our depots, deliveries of fruit and vegetables to some stores were delayed. Stores are now receiving deliveries again and customers can expect to see good availability.”

Read more: Sainsbury’s bags Christmas sales rise after online shopping boost

British Retail Consortium director Andrew Opie added: “Supermarkets have greatly expanded their online capacity, meaning that both vulnerable and non-vulnerable shoppers will be able to get the goods they need online.

“Furthermore, the safety measures put in place – from perspex screens to social distancing to additional hygiene measures – mean that everyone can shop safely in-store if they wish.”