Frozen and chilled wholesaler Eden Farm Hulleys is taking a raft of actions designed to help combat the impact of severe supply chain problems, following complaints from stores.
Independent shops had reported week-late deliveries and receiving chilled goods with less than two days shelf life.
Eden Farm Hulleys sales director Ben Lawrence said shortages of warehouse staff and lorry drivers, EU importing problems, coronavirus and the natural-gas shortages were the cause of the disruption.
He said: “We’re in the same boat. Our suppliers are having issues. With lead times for instance, there are examples where our order lead time has gone from three days to 21 days. Even then, where we would order 10 pallets they are saying you can only have two.”
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With fresh lines, Lawrence said: “Where [suppliers] are using third-party haulage firms, we can’t guarantee when it’s going to turn up. We would book in Friday 10am, but that Friday delivery might arrive on Monday, or might arrive on Tuesday.”
One of the Eden Farm Hulleys’ affected customers is Mary Qassim, owner of Cross Stores & Post Office in King Somborne, Hampshire. She told betterRetailing: “They said delivery would be the next day. The next day came and they again said it would be tomorrow. It ended up arriving eight days late.
“They don’t allocate the deliveries until after 5pm, and then they are closed, so I can’t check until the next morning if my delivery is coming.”
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Asked about the instances like Qassim’s, Lawrence promised improvements were on the way. “Our systems, no matter how good they are, haven’t been developed enough in terms of communication,” he accepted, adding: “At the moment we can’t tell customers when they are going to have their delivery at the point of order capture, it’s our biggest frustration. At the end of September we’ve got a change to our routing.
“It has taken two months to do this, and it means our IT system will tell customers what’s going to happen, and give them more of a time window at the point of order.”
He said the new system would go live within the next two weeks, and reassured the company was “seeing improvement day by day” on availability and deliveries.
Telesales staff, previously working remotely, are also set to return to the office over the next fortnight.
Lawrence added that driver and warehouse staff pay had increased and work was underway to increase the number of staff qualified to drive heavy goods vehicles.
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The company also said it had “delayed mobilisation” of new customer accounts to avoid harming stores supplied by the firm.
Commenting on when he expected the disruption to be resolved, Lawrence said: “Our expectation was by the end of September, but it depends on the market and staff availability.”
Asked for advice for stores in mitigating the ongoing issues, Lawrence told betterRetailing: “We have been advising for a while – if you can, get as much as you can and fill up your freezers. But it is a hard request to tell people to spend more money.”
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