Empty supermarket shelves have once again become a prominent issue in the UK, and images of these shortages are circulating on social media. Some attribute the increased frequency of shortages to a straightforward cause: Brexit. The decision to exit the EU has had a substantial impact on the import and distribution sector in the UK.
The Cold Chain Federation, a trade association responsible for the transportation and storage of perishable food items across the country, sheds light on the situation. According to Shane Brennan from the Cold Chain Federation,
“One of the reasons why you see empty shelves in supermarkets is that they often operated based on the ‘day one for day two’ principle. Store managers used to place orders for their goods for the following day the night before.”
However, this approach has been disrupted by Brexit. Now, supermarket managers must forecast their needs not just for the next day but for two or three days in advance. Brennan elaborates,
“More predictions need to be made about what you are going to sell or not sell. Furthermore, caution is needed in placing orders to prevent wastage. The consequence is that we have to tolerate more shortages. Essentially, that is what is happening.”
Post-Brexit, foreign suppliers are less inclined to deal with the bureaucracy and additional costs associated with delivering goods to the UK. Simpler and more accessible markets without stringent barriers are appealing alternatives. Consequently, the additional delays, issues, and expenses stemming from Brexit have made it more challenging for some supermarkets to place orders for the next day. This requires planning ahead, and it also results in more frequent errors. The outcome? Empty shelves.