Ikea says sorry after port congestion triggers stock shortages

Britons are urged not to stockpile food amid post-Brexit trading fears – as Ikea says sorry after fuming customers complain of stock shortages triggered by congestion at UK ports

  • Retailers are increasing stocks to ensure ‘sufficient supply of essential products’
  • British Retail Consortium insisted No-Deal would impact  fresh produce like fruit 
  • Will affect produce which cannot be stored for long, rather than long-life items
  • Ikea apologised to customers after they complained of shortages and delays

British shoppers have been urged to avoid stockpiling food in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.

Retailers are increasing stocks to ensure a ‘sufficient supply of essential products’, the British Retail Consortium insisted.

The retail trade association also said No-Deal Brexit would impact fresh produce like fruit and vegetables – which cannot be stored for long – rather than long-life shelf items.

Britain has been facing chaos at its ports caused by the perfect storm of Covid, the festive rush and Brexit stockpiling.

Container pileups at Southampton, Felixstowe and London Gateway mean Christmas presents may go undelivered and food could go off at the dockside.

Earlier today, Ikea was forced to apologise to irate customers after they complained of stock shortages and delayed orders.

The Swedish flat-pack furniture conglomerate blamed congestion at UK ports after it was hit by a wave of complaints from shoppers angry at missing, delayed and damaged orders.

British shoppers have been urged to avoid stockpiling food in the event of a No-Deal Brexit limiting imports. Pictured: Lorries queue for miles on the A20 near Dover

British Retail Consortium said that without a deal, the public will face more than £3 billion in food tariffs and higher prices throughout 2021 starting after January 1.

It said the uncertainty surrounding Brexit is making it harder for businesses to prepare.

Chief executive Helen Dickinson said: ‘Retailers would have no choice but to pass on some of these additional costs to their customers, who would see higher prices filter through during 2021.

‘Moreover, new checks and red tape that will apply from January 1 will create an additional burden for retailers and their customers.

‘Retailers are doing everything they can to prepare for all eventualities, increasing the stock of tins, toilet rolls and other longer life products so there will be sufficient supply of essential products.

It comes after Ikea was forced to apologise to irate customers after they complained of stock shortages and delayed orders (file image) 

‘While no amount of preparation by retailers can entirely prevent disruption, there is no need for the public to buy more food than usual as the main impact will be on imported fresh produce, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stored for long periods by either retailers or consumers.’

Ms Dickinson warned that the public will ‘pay the price’ of a failure to ‘agree a zero-tariff agreement’.

‘With many people’s finances already strained by the economic impact of coronavirus, households can ill-afford a significant rise in food prices. For the sake of customers and businesses around the UK, we need a deal in the next three weeks,’ she said.

Earlier, British Chambers of Commerce president Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith told Sky News the UK needs a deal ‘as soon as possible’, adding: ‘We need to understand how we are going to trade and what the rules are.’

‘I think it’s very difficult to be ready because there are a number of areas where we don’t have any detail at all,’ she said.

‘We don’t understand anything around quota tariffs or quotas. We don’t understand anything in detail about rules of origin.

Britain has been facing chaos at its ports caused by the perfect storm of Covid, the festive rush and Brexit stockpiling. Pictured: Lorries in Dover today

‘We’re not going to know what tariffs are going to be imposed on any goods leaving or coming into the country, meaning we won’t know the price.

‘What we’ve seen in the pandemic is huge amounts of support given but we still have a significant number of industries shut down. On top of this we don’t know how we’re going to be trading from January 1.’

She added that there ‘could be some significant job losses’, compounded by a ‘lack of Government support after March as we come out of the pandemic’.

 It comes as Ikea customers accused the retailer of poor communication and ‘failing to be contactable’ over missing, delayed and damaged orders.

Apologising in a statement, Ikea pointed the finger at chaos at the ports following a surge in demand for imports.

On Saturday, the British Ports Association said the issues were now ‘cascading’, with long queues of traffic outside lorry ports becoming increasingly common

The situation has been exacerbated by the pandemic, with countries reopening after lockdown, the Christmas rush and stockpiling amid  fears of a No-Deal Brexit all fueling the surge. 

A spokeswoman for Ikea said: ‘These continue to be extraordinary times and we apologise unreservedly for the inconvenience caused to our customers,’ she added.

‘We fully understand their frustration and want to assure them that we are working intensively to resolve these challenges as soon as possible.’

On Twitter, one angry customer said: ‘My order is over a week late and @IKEAUKSupport will not reply to anything or update me on the status of the delivery.’

Another added: ‘@IKEAUKSupport Still waiting for a response for something broken when I opened my delivery… Been trying to sort this for 16 days and no response at all.’

While a third, hitting back at Ikea’s apology, said: ‘Ok but that doesn’t explain why they haven’t been contactable. Failing to deliver is one thing, failing to tell customers and then ignoring their calls is quite another and entirely within ikea control.’ 

Problems at ports have seen imports of items such as building materials held up.   

Last week,  carmaker Honda had to pause production because of a shortage of components.

On Saturday, the British Ports Association said the issues were now ‘cascading’, with long queues of traffic outside lorry ports becoming increasingly common. 

Boss Richard Ballantyne blamed a ‘perfect storm’ of surging global container movements, the busy pre-Christmas period and people moving more goods before the Brexit transition period ends.

Ryan Clark, director of the Essex-based freight forwarder Westbound Logistics Services, told the BBC last week: ‘The increase in freight is either creating more expensive prices for the consumer, or unsustainability for businesses that will be forced to close where the onward price cannot be increased.’

Toy retailers are running out of some of this year’s most popular Christmas gifts as chaos at Britain’s ports adds to a supply shortage.

Products close to selling out include Lego sets, Barbie dolls and ‘Baby Yoda’ soft toys – one of 2020’s most sought-after presents.

Parents are rushing to find alternatives and are being told they may not be able to get their hands on the gift they want for their children.

Experts warned that stores had been hit by a perfect storm of demand and supply problems after shoppers spent an estimated £1.7 billion on packed high streets yesterday.

The surge in last-minute shopping has combined with delays to goods arriving at Felixstowe on the Suffolk coast to severely hit stocks in stores, some of which cannot get hold of toys fast enough. Covid safety restrictions have also hit the supply chains used by retailers and other industries.

Shipping containers tower over a pub in Felixstowe (pictured) as delays at the port continue

White goods, furniture, homeware and building supplies are also being delayed by the congestion in goods coming into Britain, while carmaker Honda closed its Swindon plant due to difficulty in getting parts.

The chaos at Felixstowe, also hampered by Brexit stockpiling and virus medical supplies, is now threatening to cause logjams at other ports as shipping containers are rerouted. 

Gary Grant, owner of The Entertainer, the country’s biggest toy retailer, told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘The toy trade will not run out of toys – the shelves will not be empty at 5 o’clock on Christmas Eve, no chance.

‘But there are always certain things that the whole world has wanted to buy – Rubik’s cubes, Cabbage Patch dolls, Tracy Island or Teletubbies. This year it’s Mattel’s £25 Baby Yoda soft toy – they are like gold dust. Another range that has sold phenomenally well this year is Barbie. We’ve got around half the range in stock and we’re waiting for more to come in. But it’s not coming in as fast as we are selling it.’

Baby Yoda toys have risen in popularity this year thanks to the success of Star Wars spin-off TV series The Mandalorian.

Mr Grant, whose firm operates more than 170 shops across the UK, added: ‘We will not be completely sold out of Barbies on Christmas Eve but we’ve only half the range so you might not get the one you want. That’s down to demand but it’s also the fact that shipments of new stock are being delayed.’

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