Retailers in England and Northern Ireland have blamed Brexit for causing availability issues and delays with their wholesalers.

Pictures of a Makro branch in Belfast seen by betterRetailing showed empty shelves and pallets in areas for key products such as vegetables. The Dunmurry site is the only Makro branch in Belfast and affected retailers criticised Booker for not using local suppliers to help fill the gaps.

When asked about the cause of the availability issues, a Makro spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear of these concerns and will pick up directly with the retailers. There have been delays on certain products, but we’re working with hard suppliers to improve availability.”

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Other retailers across Northern Ireland have also reported mixed availability levels as a result of Brexit. NFRN Northern Ireland district president and Spar retailer Judith Mercer told betterRetailing: “Spar’s been good with availability and I’ve had no issues.

“However, I am concerned about getting supply from some wholesalers in England. For example, Jacksons and Perkins, which supply my stationery, said they can’t send stock to me until they have my Economic Operators Registration and Identification number.

“My husband has a card shop and he’s been able to receive stock from English suppliers without this number. There’s still a lot of confusion out there.”

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Mercer said other retailers in Northern Ireland had also experienced issues with fresh availability. “I know one of our members saw their wholesaler delist many fresh items. They also had problems with late deliveries at the start of the year.”

Similarly, one store owner in the north of England reported issues getting European imports into their store due to Brexit. The retailer said they had to raise prices on other products to compensate for any sales losses from the unavailable stock.

The issues have come as businesses across Northern Ireland expressed concern the UK’s transition out of the EU this month would cause severe disruption to supplies going into the country.

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Shortly after the transition, shelves in Sainsbury’s stores in Northern Ireland had been stocked with Spar own-label products as part of a temporary supply deal between the two companies to help fill likely gaps.

However, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors said supermarkets were getting “Disney-ride fast-pass” treatment while wholesaler goods were stuck in border queues.

The trade group said: “Supermarkets? Whatever they want, whenever they need it. Don’t want to get stuck in a queue at Dover? Have 300 permits to go to the front. The Cabinet Office wouldn’t want you to be inconvenienced.”

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