It will come as no shock that sales of ‘Christmas essentials’ have been soaring earlier than ever. From turkeys to trees, everyone seems to be in a panic to make sure that they are not left without this Christmas.
It will come as no shock that sales of ‘Christmas essentials’ have been soaring earlier than ever. From turkeys to trees, everyone seems to be in a panic to make sure that they are not left without this Christmas. Wishful thinking would be that everyone is filled with festive spirit earlier than usual. However the more likely option is that panic is settling in; panic over a winter of shortages, panic that fuel is the tip of the iceberg, panic that Brexit shortages are not just a ‘bump in the road’ but a glimpse into the future.
Fuel to the Fire
It is rare that you would have come across an individual recently who would not have been affected by the fuel shortage. If there is one whisper of a potential shortage, a wave of panic buying floods the nation. Fear of being left without appears to be a phobia for more people than we perhaps thought. Images were cropping up of people bringing fuel cans, or in some cases several, to fill up in addition to their car, or some people filling their tank significantly more than they perhaps would if fuel was of abundance. Whether fear or greed is the cause of such, and neither would be without reason, the fuel shortage frenzy appears to be withering away, just as fear of food shortages appears to be creeping in.
There is no denying of course that a significant lack of HGV drivers is heavily affecting supply chains. There is an estimated shortage of 100,000 truck drivers, which haulage associations have mostly attributed to post-brexit terms – largely the lack of EU nationals allowed to work in the UK. This lack of drivers causes huge supply chain issues, not just for fuel but for other goods as well, affecting almost every business sector.
Lack of Labour
The UK currently has an unemployment rate of only 5%, yet there continues to be a labour shortage – particularly within the hospitality industry. The food industry has for many years been recognised as one that attracts people from unskilled backgrounds, providing low rates of pay and long hours of work. Brexit has reinforced the need for investment in the industry, in training and development and in creating career paths that can attract new people. The covid effect has underlined this need, as the general public became dependent on food availability and the people involved realised that they were too “essential workers”. Labour shortages are likely to continue; particularly in a post-brexit Britain with less EU help and it being more difficult for workers to come in from overseas. Many employers are increasing wages to make jobs more desirable, but this in turn causes the products to become more expensive, creating a scale that we will forever be attempting to balance.
The food industry is not static but ever-evolving; and it won’t stop evolving until it stabilizes, by becoming a strong, competitive part of the global economy (from farming to production; including transport and deliveries, retail and wholesale). Hospitality is the UK’s third largest private sector employer and accounts for 10 percent of UK employment and 5 percent of national gross domestic product, so being a part of the national economy it certainly is. Without further government help and their willingness to supply visas to allow migrant workers to enter the UK, it is a strong likelihood that labour shortages will continue.
Food Shortages and Honesty
Speaking to the Bakery manager at Honesty, Tiago Figueiredo gives an insight into how Honesty are tackling food shortages and how it affects the business, and our customers.
The supply chain issues are caused by 2 factors: the overbuying and the panic buying by the general public, and the lack of HGV drivers and the difficulty in transporting goods from dock to factories, from factories to retailers and wholesalers. We have enough stock of products in the UK, they simply aren’t reaching the destination as quickly as required – which means there is an issue of availability, rather than stock – ie. the products are not available, although they exist in abundance. This creates price hikes, as demand surpasses supply. Recent examples include cooking oils and vegetable oils, chocolate and some speciality products (specific flours).
Essentially; there aren’t actually any food shortages, just an issue of availability. The Honesty bakery unit has enough stock to keep all our locations and our e-commerce with plentiful supply of goods, and our reliable drivers deliver this stock to each location everyday. Therefore Honesty itself, and their customers, have been relatively unaffected by ‘shortages’. However; it must be stressed that overbuying or panic buying will only worsen the shortages that many other companies face due to lack of HGV drivers. Until the government makes it easier for migrant workers to enter the UK, this lack of labour may continue to be an issue.
The Uncontrollable Element
Gas prices have reached an all time high, now being double what they were in 2020. This spike not only affects consumers and households, but also businesses. It has highlighted our dependency as a nation on fossil fuels, and why the need for renewable energy sources is so important, now more than ever.
Until we become non-dependent on fossil fuels, prices will continue to rise. Undoubtedly these rising costs will cause everyone to tighten their belts this Christmas, causing a conflict between worrying about being left without, and the cost of living being too high for indulgence. There must be a direct correlation between a higher cost of living and a lower quality of life; affecting the most vulnerable households.
As the year begins to draw to a close, we can look back in retrospect at the many challenges that we, as a nation, have faced this year, and have overcome. With panic buying, hopefully, behind us, we can all look forward to a Christmas full of abundance, giving and festivities.