The country’s largest supermarkets have lost out on more than £2bn sales this year so far thanks to food shortages.
Leading retailers – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – lost out on sales during the first nine months of the year, according to data shared with trade magazine The Grocer.
The sector has been hit by shortages of HGV drivers in recent months with bosses warning that empty shelves could be the new normal in the run up to Christmas.
Out-of-stock levels are now twice as high as before the pandemic, according to Nielsen.
The cost of lost sales to retailers could increase further in the coming months, as availability is increasingly strained by Christmas purchasing as well as fuel and labour shortages.
Retailers have been forced to de-prioritise deliveries of some bulky items – including bottled water – to ensure other items remain well-stocked.
Promotions in doubt
Companies will be increasingly forced to make tough choices in the run up to Christmas, according to Ben Morrison, retailer services director at NielsenIQ.
“It’s whether it will be retailers prioritising categories or suppliers prioritising retailers,” he said.
Supermarkets usually raise promotions over Halloween and Christmas but after already hemorrhaging sales this year, they may struggle to boost them further.
“Will retailers have the bandwidth to be able to run all their biggest promotions?” Morrison added. “They want the volume but need to make sure they can fulfil it.”
Soft drinks were the worst affected category across the four main supermarkets, with availability dropping to below 90 per cent last month.
Availability for fizzy drinks in the UK was usually around 98.5 per cent, Nielsen’s data showed.
Boris Johnson said it was likely the UK’s goods shortages would last until Christmas on Sunday, while refusing to “pull the lever” to relax immigration rules for overseas lorry drivers.
Supermarket bosses have warned of increasing food prices and widespread empty shelves as the sector readies itself for Christmas, against the backdrop of a shortfall of some 100,000 HGV drivers.