Christmas sales to be brought forward by month in bid to avoid empty shelves

Christmas sales are to be brought forward by supermarkets and retailers by up to a month after talks with the Government aimed at avoiding empty shelves in December.

Supermarket bosses have told officials they plan to launch Christmas promotions early to avoid a last-minute surge in demand, The Telegraph understands.

One retail chief said that the move was a “prudent step” to spread out sales amid a chronic shortage of HGV drivers and congestion at ports.

It came as retailers urged shoppers to buy early rather than wait to stock up on toys, electronics and food.

Ministers have insisted that the supply chain situation is improving and urged the public to 'buy normally' rather than rush to the shops

Credit: Dinendra Haria/LNP

Ministers insisted the supply chain situation was improving and urged the public to “buy normally” rather than rush to the shops.

Retail bosses on Wednesday held a conference call with Dave Lewis, the former CEO of Tesco, who has been appointed as the Government’s supply chain adviser.

One industry leader claimed officials had asked supermarkets to bring forward their festive deals, although this was denied by a government source.

“We do understand that most of the retailers are doing that anyway,” the official said. “That’s a business decision they have taken.”

Despite emergency visas for 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers in the lead-up to Christmas, supermarkets are concerned their stocks of key food items could run low.

Richard Walker, chief executive of Iceland, said the supermarket had “gone a month early” with their online Christmas range.

“It’s prudent to get ahead of the game,” he told The Telegraph.

“Our turkey sales are already up 400 per cent compared to this time last year, and we’ve increased our turkey orders by 20 per cent in anticipation of people wanting to celebrate Christmas properly this year and because of everything that’s going on [in the supply chain].”

Morrisons on Wednesday announced a “mega sale” on toys in order “to help customers prepare for Christmas”.

Up to 50 per cent will be slashed off products from household brands including Disney Princess, LEGO, Peppa Pig and Mario Kart.

It came after the world’s largest shipping firm diverted giant cargo ships away from the UK, leading to fears of a shortage of toys, clothes and electronics at Christmas.

Shipping giant Maersk has said it is diverting vessels away from UK ports, including Felixstowe, to avoid congestion of cargo

Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, announced that larger vessels would be ordered to dock elsewhere in Europe to avoid congestion at Felixstowe Port in Suffolk.

A spokesperson for the British Toy & Hobby Association said shoppers should consider buying early to avoid disappointment in December.

He added: “There are plenty of toys to choose from presently but in common with other sectors’ advice, buying early – especially if buying for a Christmas or a birthday present – is prudent.”

Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said there is “no need to panic buy” but advised customers to start their normal shopping process earlier.

“If you see something you want, now is the time to buy as retailers have most of their Christmas stock, but we can’t guarantee having supplies of everything over the next few weeks.”

Despite emergency visas for 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers in the lead-up to Christmas, supermarkets are still concerned their stocks of key food items could run low

Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Peter Wilson, managing director at Cory Brothers shipping agency, said problems affecting shipping and transport was a global issue but added the UK has a “significant pinch point around HGV drivers and the demand on them to move goods from the ports”.

Asked if it will affect Christmas, he said it has the “potential” but stressed that the supply chain “will not fail in the UK”.

He added that consumers should “be sensible, think ahead, plan appropriately, and order your Christmas goods and the items that you need in a timely fashion to ensure that you have them”.

Oliver Dowden, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, insisted the Government was “working through these challenges” amid a build-up of cargo at UK ports.

Asked about potential Christmas shortages, he said: “The situation is improving, I’m confident that people will be able to get their toys for Christmas. Some buy people buy very early for Christmas, my wife is quite an early Christmas buyer, others buy later. I would say just buy as you do normally.”

Asked if Father Christmas would visit, Mr Dowden said: “Yes, I have children myself and they can be comfortable on that front.”

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