EXCLUSIVE: Brexit trade breakdown in April feared by major wholesalers

Retailers have been advised by trade bodies to stock up on certain products to allow for longer lead times

Warehouse wholesale depot forklift truck

Retailers have been advised to stock up on core fresh and chilled lines by April, as wholesalers and trade bodies have warned upcoming border regulations could cause availability issues.

From 1 April, goods of animal origin, including meat, milk or egg products, coming into the UK from the European Union (EU) will require additional checks as a result of Brexit.

Trade bodies the Federation of Wholesale Distributors and Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) told Better Retailing this could impact availability and advised retailers to stock up accordingly.

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SWA chief executive Colin Smith said: “We expect potential delays and the backlog of trucks we saw before Christmas. It’s especially a worry for fresh veg and chilled products.

“In January, suppliers sending products into the UK had increased their lead times from one day to two days. Those times dropped, but we could see those times increase again as demand is ramped up in line with the economy reopening.

“It’s not just food and drink that’s coming through the port, but everything else as well.

“In terms of preparing as a retailer, we’d advise stocking up a bit more to allow for longer lead times. It’s a case of looking at what you can source domestically as well.”

Brexit hits availability in wholesale and stores

Bestway Wholesale trading director Kenton Burchell said the company has engaged daily with suppliers to ensure it has availability for retailers in April. “I can confirm that our experience so far has been very good, with our key suppliers planning ahead and making adjustments where needed in light of April,” he said.

“Over the past six months, we have placed strong focus on the continuity of supply and have been engaging – in some cases – daily with key suppliers to ensure we have the right availability to maintain our levels of stock and high levels of service to our customers.

“We are not anticipating disruption from the suppliers we are working closely with, but are aware this new requirement is causing a level of disturbance in the industry.”

Similarly, wholesale buying group Unitas has been in conversation with suppliers in anticipation of the upcoming controls.

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The company’s managing director (designate), John Kinney, told Better Retailing: “Being independent means our wholesalers are able to act quickly and source alternative products, but for some products that is not always the case and we ask all suppliers to ensure a fair approach is adopted if shortages or delays do materialise.”

Retailers in Northern Ireland have also reported increased delivery times following Brexit. Judith Mercer, of Hamilton News in Belfast, told Better Retailing: “With goods imported from England, we’re having to wait seven working days when it used to take a couple.

“Considering how turbulent sales are at the moment, it makes it very difficult to accurately forecast orders and availability can suffer.”

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