Symbol groups and wholesalers have given shop owners a Brexit stockpiling list in preparation for no-deal, following government warnings.
Documents seen by Better Retailing show Nisa warned partnered stores this week about 40 core ambient products the group believes “could be significantly diminished by panic-buying or food shortages” after the planned EU exit day on 31 October. “We have decided to be proactive and release these to our partners to buy into as required,” said Nisa.
A third of the list, built with Co-op and suppliers, is made up of canned grocery lines, with bottled water and baby milk formula also featuring heavily.
An expert told Better Retailing this was due to the belief some fresh lines would become unavailable and customers will revert to canned and frozen goods.
Read more: Freshways price rise blamed on Brexit
Stockpiling 100 units of each of the 40 lines would cost independent retailers approximately £7,606.49. A Nisa spokesperson said these lines were “secured by emergency top-up and stockpiling activities”.
Bestway said it is “stocked for any eventuality”, but agreed that retailers should start holding stock where practical.
A spokesperson for the group told Better Retailing: “We recommend retailers ensure they are well-stocked within the space they have in preparation for Brexit.
“Retailers could stock up on products, which have long date-codes, and which are not seasonal, or products which they know sell out fast. However, we don’t recommend doing this if it incurs risk to cash-flow or expensive storage charges.”
Commenting on the Brexit stockpiling list, wholesale expert and former Bestway operations director David Gilroy told Better Retailing: “Quite a few wholesalers will be doing the same thing, but less openly. What they are doing is quite smart, as long as the wholesaler has stock to back it up. It takes pressure off of the wholesaler.”
The announcements follow warnings in newly released government worst-case scenario Brexit planning documents. They claimed fresh food supplies will decrease, but the UK would avoid “an overall shortage of food”.
However, the government did admit Brexit could “reduce availability and choice of products and increase price”.
The plans claim that “increased pressure from Christmas preparations” will harm industry preparedness and that “there is a risk panic-buying will cause or exacerbate food supply disruption”.
Despite these being the government’s worst-case scenario predictions, it admits that it “will not be able to fully anticipate all potential impacts”.
Asked about the level of risk for stores, Gilroy responded: “Those who lived through the 1970s know how quickly product shortages can escalate.
“If the worst-case scenario happens, stores have to accept they will run out of stock. If retailers are stocking up, it’s about the very basics – one line each of tea, coffee, water, biscuits and so on.
“Customer range expectations will go out the window, and trends like free-from, wellness and protein will be out.”
However, NFRN head of political engagement Adrian Roper said: “It is impossible to judge the impact that Brexit, in whatever form, will have on independent retailers. While it might be tempting to stock up on canned and long-dated items, retailers need to consider where they will store the stock over the coming months.”
In a letter sent to partnered stores last week, Country Choice managing director Garry Picton said the firm was holding an extra 11,000 pallets of product and had worked out “potential substitutions for the most at-risk products”.
A Costcutter spokesperson told Better Retailing a no-deal Brexit support plan will mean retailers “can continue to operate their store and engage their shoppers with confidence”.
Asked about its plans to help store owners, Booker refused to comment.