Ocado warns of “missing items and substitutions” as COVID-19 ravages supply chain

Ocado has become the first UK grocer to warn customers of an increase in missing items and substitutions thanks to “staff absences across the supply chain”.

Customers of the online grocer, which has seen a sharp rise in demand during successive lockdowns over the past year, were cautioned via email on Friday to expect “an increase of missing items and substitutions over the next few weeks”.

This is reportedly due to an increasing number of coronavirus-related staff absences at its suppliers, leaving many companies with no choice but to limit their ranges in order to keep food flowing.

Ocado assured customers that while they may not get their exact orders, plenty of food will still be available.

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“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and we are working hard to mitigate any impact”, the online grocer added.

Staff shortages in the UK’s supermarket supply chain have been exacerbated by new Brexit border restrictions causing widespread delays at ports.

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said these two factors represented “a severe challenge to the industry and to the smooth running of the nation’s food supply chain”.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), UK retailers are set to lose a whopping £2 billion a week in sales as the country endures its third national lockdown, causing all but essential retailers to close their doors.

Industry leaders have warned that these fresh restrictions are a “body blow” to the industry and would likely lead to a further rise in job losses, after 178,000 retail workers lost their jobs in 2020.

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