Ikea sees shortages on 1,000 products as lorry driver shortage and global supply crisis hits chain


Ikea has run out of mattresses in some of its stores as lorry driver shortages continue to disrupt the company’s supply chains. 

The Swedish furniture giant has become the latest company to experience disruptions to their supply chain as it struggles with shortages on around 1,000 products.

It comes after a major flu vaccine supplier and food companies such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Wetherspoon said they had been affected by ongoing HGV driver shortages. 

Britain is currently facing a 100,000 shortfall of HGV drivers, which industry bosses have partly blamed on changes to migration rules post-Brexit and EU employees returning home due to the pandemic.  

Ikea said that all of its 22 UK and Ireland stores were experiencing a shortage of products as a result of Covid-19 and Brexit. 

Ikea has become the latest company to experience disruptions to their supply chain due to lorry driver shortages

Why is there a supply-chain crisis? 

A lack of lorry drivers and food processors is being partly blamed on the new Brexit visa regime introduced on January 1, which penalises lower-skilled migrants in favour of those with qualifications. 

But global factors are relevant too, bosses say, including Chinese port closures and a lack of shipping containers. US Vice President Kamala Harris urged Americans to buy Christmas toys early due to a shortage there. 

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, told MailOnline Britain has so far been unable to shake its dependency on EU workers who have been leaving due to the pandemic.

The supply of new workers is also being held back by stricter visa rules introduced on January 1.

The most common complaint among UK retailers and food producers is the shortage of lorry drivers, which the Road Haulage Association currently puts at 100,000.

Thousands of prospective drivers are waiting for their HGV tests due to a backlog caused by lockdown, while many existing ones have left the UK after Brexit or to be back with their families during Covid.

Importers are also suffering a financial hit, with dramatically rising transport costs caused by a global lack of shipping containers and a slowdown in freight movements resulting from port closures.

Chinese authorities recently shut Ningbo-Zhoushan port, which is one of the world’s largest container terminals, due to a Covid outbreak.

Gary Grant, founder and executive chairman of toy chain the Entertainer, said the cost of shipping a container from Asia had increased from $1,700 to more than $13,000 (£8,000) over the past year.

The company said it was seeing 10 per cent of its stock, or around 1,000 product lines, impacted as a result of supply issues, reports The BBC. 

A company spokesperson said: ‘Like many retailers, we are experiencing ongoing challenges with our supply chains due to Covid-19 and labour shortages, with transport, raw materials and sourcing all impacted. In addition, we are seeing higher customer demand as more people are spending more time at home.

‘As a result, we are experiencing low availability in some of our ranges, including mattresses.’

The Road Haulage Association said the total number of people in the UK with HGV licences this summer is 516,000. But the latest Department for Transport data shows 278,700 HGV drivers were employed in 2020, equivalent to 54 per cent of the total. 

Ikea apologised to its customers for the issues and said it hoped the situation would improve ‘in the coming weeks and months’. 

‘What we are seeing is a perfect storm of issues, including the disruption of global trade flows and a shortage of drivers, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic and Brexit,’ the spokesperson said. 

It comes after it emerged that at least 18 councils across the UK are experiencing ongoing disruptions to their bin collection services due to the driver shortages. 

The delays are primarily affecting collections of garden waste, according to the BBC.

But some councils are also delaying recycling collections so they can provide enough drivers to pick up Britons’ general waste. 

The delays are being caused in part by the lack of HGV drivers for bin lorries, along with the fact that many council staff are self-isolating after either contracting coronavirus or coming into contact with someone with the disease. 

On Thursday, three councils in Devon wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel asking for the Government to grant temporary visas for European HGV drivers to ease the shortage.   

North Devon Council is trying to fill seven bin lorry driver vacancies, Torbay Council has eight vacancies and Teignbridge Council needs 10 drivers, the councillors said in their letter.   

Steve Darling, David Worden and Alistair Dewhirst added that it was proving ‘very challenging’ to fill the vacancies. 

At least 18 councils across the UK are experiencing ongoing disruptions to their bin collection services due to driver shortages

At least 18 councils across the UK are experiencing ongoing disruptions to their bin collection services due to driver shortages

The councillors asked for driver applications being handled by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA to be ‘fast tracked’.

They said there are five applications in Teignbridge which could be speeded up. 

Waste management firms including Biffa and Veolia told the BBC that they are ‘doing everything’ to cope with the shortage. 

Other councils suffering from shortages include the city councils in Derby and Manchester, along with others in Milton Keynes and Basingstoke.    

The shortage of drivers is also hitting the food industry. Earlier this week, Coca-Cola said a can shortage was being compounded by a shortfall of HGV drivers.

And pub chain Wetherspoon’s said it was suffering from a beer shortage. Fast food chains McDonald’s, KFC and Nando’s have all suffered similar supply chain issues in recent months. 

The latter firm had to close around a tenth of its outlets due to a chicken shortage caused in part by a lack of drivers. 

Meanwhile Seqirus, one of the world’s largest flu vaccine companies, this week reported delays in jab deliveries of up to a fortnight.    

Britain has around 237,300 qualified drivers who are not yet on the roads, despite the shortfall of 100,000 workers.   

Industry experts have said better pay and improved working conditions are needed to lure them back.

They put the shortage largely down to Brexit and the pandemic, which led to 14,000 European drivers going home and just 600 of those returning. 

An HGV lorry driver takes his vehicle along the M4 motorway near Datchet, Berkshire, on July 8

An HGV lorry driver takes his vehicle along the M4 motorway near Datchet, Berkshire, on July 8

Since last year, the industry has also seen large numbers of drivers retiring, while lockdown has hit the training of new drivers with 40,000 HGV driver tests cancelled.

The average age of a UK lorry driver is put at 56 to 57 and not enough young people have joined the industry due to its long hours, unattractive conditions and poor pay.

Drivers’ median hourly pay has risen 10 per cent since 2015 to £11.80 – below the 16 per cent average across other sectors, with new tax changes also not in their favour. 

Lorry drivers can only drive for nine hours each day, but many are away from home up to 15 hours a day – putting off many young people who do not want such hours. 

Britain is just one of many European countries suffering from a driver shortfall. 

There are an estimated 400,000 vacancies across the continent.  

Research by logistics analysts Transport Intelligence found that Germany was missing between 45,000 and 60,000 HGV drivers last year. 

That number is increasing, with the International Road Transport Union warning of a 185,000 shortfall there by 2027.

France has also faced a similar crisis, with the country facing a shortage of around 43,000 drivers since 2019. 

The shortfall in Italy in 2019 was estimated to be around 15,000, Transport Intelligence said. 

Jose Gomez-Urquiza, chief executive of immigration agency Visa Solutions, told The Daily Express: ‘We’re living through the worst driver shortage that we’ve seen in recent history, by far.’   

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