Families have been warned to buy Christmas toys early – or watch the kids despair.
Top sellers including the Elf, Paw Patrol and Barbie figures on the shelf are likely to be missing from the stores.
Shortage of truck drivers has increased the import burden at the ports
The warning came after supermarkets tried to disguise empty shelves and chiller cabinets by filling them with random items—including HP sauce, salad cream, and cooking oil.
Kwality Street, Celebration and Dairy Milk have been shifted to the empty fruit and vegetable section.
An industry source said: “Retailers know there is some tension in the air and don’t want to see panic buying.”
Ministers begged shoppers as usual – and stressed the situation in ports, where shipments are piling up because of a lack of lorry drivers, is beginning to improve.
But in Felixstow, Suffolk, some 50,000 containers are waiting to be collected.
Toy retailers encourage families to buy early. Toyseller The Entertainer’s boss Gary Grant said the stores were well stocked now, but feared problems in the coming weeks.
The British Toy and Hobby Association stated that manufacturers were working “round the clock” at Christmas time.
As well as Barbie, Paw Patrol toys are said to be “prime candidates” to be in short supply.
There are a million Elf on the Shelf figures waiting to be shipped out of China.
Robert Glidden, owner of Glydon’s Toy Shop in Sidmouth, Devon, urged shoppers to “buy now.”
Peter Wilson, group managing director of the Corey Brothers Shipping Agency, recommends buying “timely fashion” for Christmas.
He said the supply chain would not “fail”, but warned people to be careful.
He told the BBC: “What I would say to the consumer is to be smart, think ahead, plan appropriately and order your Christmas items and the items you need on time to make sure you have them.
“As Christmas approaches, some items may not be available on the shelves but this supply chain will not fail.
“The toys, the accessories, will be important big selling points as we build up to Christmas, and I think that’s where we’re going to get the pinch points.”
Doug Bannister, chief executive of the Port of Dover, told Times Radio: “I don’t feel particularly Grinchy . . . but I wonder if my wife needs to buy some early Christmas gifts for the kids.
Meanwhile, supermarket owners are having to prioritize which deliveries they get. As a result, most have meats and veg, but are cutting back on items like bottled water or a full range of pastas.
Often the gap is plugged with whatever the lot is. An industry source said: “Some of these more foolproof options – like chocolate where the wedge or salad should be a chiller full of cream – aren’t coming from some head office. It shows employees are thinking a little outside the box.
Some items are likely to no longer be available on shelves near Christmas, but that supply chain won’t fail.
“Obviously, they will not cheat customers. And, to be honest, some of it is just busy and sometimes stressed employees having some fun and hoping it makes customers laugh.
At a Tesco Extra in Cardiff, a large display of sunflower oil was placed at the end of the frozen food aisle.
Gran Barbara Davis, 71, said: “The items seem to have been placed in strange places where other products would normally be. Why would they put so many bottles of sunflower oil right next to all the frozen food? It worried me. Does what Christmas can look like.”
Shopper Val Lewis, 62, was stunned when he met a wall of tomatoes that usually housed several salad items at his local Tesco in Pontypridd, South Wales.
He said: “I couldn’t believe it. Where there was to be lettuce and cucumber, only tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes were for sale. Obviously they didn’t want the empty space so plant tomatoes there instead.
Recruiters warned of a shortage of seasonal workers due to the large number of job vacancies.
And according to the British Chamber of Commerce, 92 percent of hotel and catering firms reported difficulties recruiting in the previous quarter, along with 75 percent of services sector firms, the highest level in 20 years.
The increase in seasonal vacancies this year, which usually peak in October and November, has also come later than normal, he said.
Earlier this week shipping giant Maersk said it was diverting ships from UK ports back to Europe – with a Dunkirk-style flotilla of small boats in operation to bring cargo to other ports via the channel.
David Jinks, ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, said: “Felixstowe means the Christmas 2021 problem is now at Defcon 2,” said David Jinks, the US Armed Forces’ Alert Grade.
But when asked about potential Christmas shortages, Tory president Oliver Dowden insisted: “The situation is improving. I believe people will be able to get their toys for Christmas.”
“Some people buy too early for Christmas, my wife is an early Christmas buyer, others buy later. I would say buy as you normally would.”
Asked if Father Christmas would come, he said: “Yes, I have kids myself and they can be comfortable on that front.”