Stores have reported lost sales and delays to refits as a result of major shortages of shop equipment and shop fitters.

Experts have warned the shortages could last into 2023, with symbol groups doubling down on building closer ties with new and existing providers in order to keep their store development plans on track.

Various convenience chains told betterRetailing they were seeing a raw materials shortage required for store projects, with prices on equipment such as shelving and chillers seeing a 10% increase.

Although Bestway said the lead time on future refits had increased by 18–20 weeks to March, the boss of a major chiller manufacturer warned the refrigeration availability could be impacted well into 2023.

The chiller boss told betterRetailing: “One major chiller supplier warned of a 21-week wait for equipment. The average is six-to-eight weeks. It’s unprecedented. There’s a shortage from China of chips required for chiller fans. It’s likely some manufacturers won’t be able to build chillers next year. That will be catastrophic.”

Delay in symbol group refits unlikely to clear until 2022

One retailer told betterRetailing: “I’ve been planning my refit for January for some time, but I’ve been told that it will be touch and go as to whether the equipment I’ve ordered arrives in time.”

Another said: “My chiller has had a total failure – I ordered a replacement last week, but have been told I’ll have to wait until at least January. I’m losing thousands of pounds in sales every week.”

John Dolman, retail consultant at shopfitting specialist Spec Consultancy, added: “A lot of tradespeople moved back to and stayed in Europe during the UK coronavirus lockdown.

“It’s hard to get reliable trade workers as they’re being offered twice the pay by other companies. The lead times on quotes have shortened due to constant price changes.

“We’re having to tell customers it will be two weeks before a quote is likely to change.”

Blakemore Trade partners with retailers to help develop their stores

Similarly, one regional wholesaler admitted they had delays with receiving shelving and chillers for refits, blaming driver shortages and European imports.

Explaining its plans to tackle the issue, a Bestway spokesperson told betterRetailing it was working with alternative suppliers. “Lead times to order refrigeration have increased from four-to-six weeks to 12 weeks. While this is not currently affecting the current refits that we have underway, we are extending lead times on future projects and making retailers aware of this at the point we agree on a project.”

Bestway added there is no backlog of refits, but warned “this may change as we move into the New Year, depending on the ongoing situation”.

“We’re continuing to collaborate closely with our suppliers to mitigate any impacts and are keeping our retailers closely informed as to any likely delays across any upcoming planned refits,” it said.

Nisa and Parfetts also both assured retailers they had worked closely with contractors to ensure existing refits would be competed to schedule. Parfetts store development manager Craig Richardson said: “A close-working relationship with our shopping fitting partners, alongside careful planning, has ensured that we have kept delays to a minimum.

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