Monday, November 29, 2021

UK stores are still short of pain relievers and chips

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According to official statistics, shoppers can still struggle to get chips in UK supermarkets.

Survey data collected by Kantar Public and shared with the Bureau of National Statistics found that some stores are still running low on chips.

While there were still considerable shortages of multipacks between November 19 and 22 when the data was collected and 24 percent of the stores had few or none on offer, the offer has decreased slightly compared to 30 percent in the previous week.

An IT glitch earlier this month that halted production at Walkers, the UK’s largest chip maker, resulted in a sharp drop in production levels. The manufacturer warned at the time that it could take weeks before normal production levels were reached again.

Even more worrying, however, is the persistent shortage of over-the-counter pain relievers – acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Almost every fifth store had little or no supply of paracetamol between November 19 and 22.

The figures, which are part of the ONS ‘regular survey of how the economy is doing during the pandemic, help paint a picture of consumer experiences during the global supply chain crisis and the partial disintegration of EU-UK trade.

Scarcity reports are against a background of rising costs for consumers, with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) recording the sharpest increase in sales prices since 1990 in the period up to November.

The CBI said data from its members suggested prices would continue their upward trend for the next month as well, adding pressure on Christmas shoppers’ wallets as inflation outpaces wage growth.

The data painted a relatively positive picture for retailers, suggesting that sales were relatively strong for the time of year. However, some economists were skeptical whether this would last and that the measure was also affected by the Covid-19 restrictions last year compared to last year.

“However, these positive signals are more likely to reflect consumers moving forward with Christmas shopping in the face of warnings of potential shortages rather than a pickup in underlying demand,” said Gabriella Dickens, UK senior economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

This can be confirmed by the separate ONS / Kantar data, which showed that more than 1 in 10 stores were out of fresh pork, frozen turkey, and sparkling water.

The ONS numbers come after the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said its members reported serious delays in importing products up to five times the normal time.

The industry continues to battle global economic disruptions due to the pandemic and the shortage of heavy truck drivers.

In March of this year, India, one of the world’s largest generic drug suppliers, put export restrictions in place amid rising coronavirus cases. Many inputs for these drugs, which often come from China, were also scarce for Indian importers, said industry experts.

Bottlenecks from packaging to raw materials and limited freight capacity have resulted in a supply chain for medicines.

However, the problem is not resolving as quickly as some industry experts originally hoped – multiple global trade studies suggest shipping costs and other supply chain disruption triggers will persist well into next year.

Overall, around 10 percent of the stores were missing or missing those goods, which are “largely similar” to the earlier measurements, the ONS said, suggesting that the general scarcity has not worsened.

However, this does not mean that the economy will avoid price increases due to shortages for a number of industrial products. Inflation will peak at 5 percent in April 2022, warns the Bank of England.

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