Supermarkets report shortages as shelves left empty

Shelves at the Co-op in Crouch End

Shelves at the Co-op in Crouch End - Credit: David Winskill

Some supermarkets in north-west London are struggling for stock, as food shortages persist in what could be a “rough road to Christmas”. 

Empty shelves have appeared in  recent weeks in the UK, with 17% of adults struggling to buy essential items according to the Office for National Statistics.

Multiple factors, including a post-Brexit labour shortage and Covid-19 related issues, have disrupted the supply chain. 

Londoners have already felt the impact of the HGV driver shortage, seeing huge queues at petrol stations.

Some supermarkets are also struggling, with employees reporting troubling supply chain issues and Brexit-induced price hikes on imported goods.

Shelves at the Co-op in Crouch End

A sign at the Co-op in Crouch End - Credit: David Winskill

James McCarten, a 29-year-old team manager at Waitrose in Finchley Road, said: “We’re steady but things are still a struggle. The biggest issue is the shortage of HGV lorry drivers.”

According to James, the supermarket is roughly “75% full” and low on imported water and dry goods such as pasta and rice. 

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James has not been told when things might improve and is predicting a “rough road to Christmas”.

The Phoenicia Mediterranean Food Hall, a specialist Mediterranean grocery in Kentish Town, relies heavily on goods imported from Europe.

Omran Zain, the 28-year-old who deals with store's accounts, said many European suppliers have increased prices. Due to this, he said: “People have not been buying stuff as much as they used to. Regular customers used to be buying everything whereas now they are focussing on only essentials.”

He said the lack of HGV drivers has resulted in shortages of olives, olive oil and dry foods. Suppliers have told him that the situation won’t improve until November at the earliest. 

Ricardo Thomas, a 23-year-old shop worker at Superette, a gourmet grocery store in Swain’s Lane, Highgate has seen shortages, mainly in baked goods.

Some shops, however, say they are still stacking shelves with relative ease.

Yannis Perivolas, the 60-year-old, part-owner of Kentish Town's Earth Natural Foods since 2006, said by relying on a mix of large and small and local suppliers, they had avoided significant shortages. 

He said footfall, down during the latest lockdown, was “slowly going back to usual”.

Similarly, an operational manager at Budgens, Haverstock Hill said that although some supply lorries were taking longer than usual, the store remains well-stocked. 

The Co-op in Crouch End is just one of the stores where readers have reported bare shelves in the last week. The company was approached for comment.

Shelves at the Co-op in Crouch End

Shelves at the Co-op in Crouch End - Credit: David Winskill