The Chancellor says the government cannot solve every problem and the crisis is global
Rishi Sunak said the UK government was unable to “solve every single problem” as he argued that the supply chain crisis that threatened Christmas-time bottlenecks was a “global problem”.
Retailers have expressed concerns that the ongoing problems will result in higher prices and empty shelves into December.
But trying to allay fears that Christmas will be tough, the Chancellor said he was “confident” that there would be enough goods “for everyone”.
That comes after research found retailers from Primark to Chanel are among those hit by traffic jams in Britain’s largest port, Felixstowe. The shortage of truck drivers and the lack of space in warehouses and distribution centers are blamed for an enormous cargo backlog waiting for the port.
Mr Sunak spoke up in Washington after meeting finance ministers from the G7 group of world leaders to discuss the problem, with politicians agreeing to work more closely together to resolve the crisis.
In an interview with the BBC, the Chancellor tried to assure the British that goods would be offered for sale in the run-up to Christmas.
“We are doing absolutely everything we can to alleviate some of these challenges,” he said.
“They are global in nature, so we cannot solve every single problem, but I am confident that there will be a good supply of goods for everyone.
“I am confident that there will be a good amount of Christmas gifts that anyone can buy.”
But a head of a shipping company has warned that there will be fewer choices on the shelves this winter.
Peter Wilson, group managing director at Cory Brothers, a freight forwarder that handles freight and the logistics of processing goods, said consumers need to order Christmas gifts well in advance to ensure they will arrive as UK ports are short of it of truck drivers are overloaded.
Wilson said consumers should “be sensible, think ahead, plan appropriately, order your Christmas merchandise and the items you need on time to make sure you have them”.
Despite saying the supply chain would not fail completely, Wilson told BBC Radio 4’s Today program, “There’s potential just before Christmas [for] Some items may not be available on the shelves. “
Mr Wilson is not alone as many retailers are encouraging consumers to start buying gifts early to avoid the Christmas disappointment and soaring prices in the run-up to the holidays.
At QT Toys in Clapham, South London, owner Joseph Yap told the story I The storage room was “much fuller than usual” in October because he tried to avoid a shortage of the most popular children’s toys.
“I thought about asking my parents if they could keep some of this stuff with them,” he said.
Overorders aren’t without reason, My Yap said. Some of the items he ordered in March have only just arrived, a delivery of Rainbocorns – coveted cuddly toys that are sold in plastic eggs – will not come until after the holidays.
Lisa Clay, owner of Armadillo Toys in Leeds, said she started getting big Christmas shipments in September – a month earlier than usual.
“It’s really different this year. We’re getting sold out lists of things we can’t get this year [from suppliers] and we’re only in October, ”she said. Although the strategy means that hopefully there will still be plenty of toys on the shelves in December, it is a “gamble” as it remains unclear what the most popular toys will be this year, Ms. Clay said.
On Wednesday, the Chancellor chaired a meeting of finance ministers while the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank met in the US capital.
The Treasury said Mr Sunak told the meeting the importance of global collaboration to ensure supply chains are more resilient as the world emerges from the pandemic.
After the meeting, Mr. Sunak said, “Supply chain problems are felt around the world – and finance leaders from around the world need to work together to address our common challenges.
“Today we agreed to work closely together in the coming months – and together we will build a strong and resilient recovery.”
Meanwhile, the cargo backlog at Felixstowe has resulted in Maersk shipping company choosing to divert ships away from the port of Suffolk, while similar traffic jams have been observed in other parts of the world, including the United States.