Shoppers in Britain are already struggling to get their hands on the most sought-after Christmas presents, with the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and iPhone 13 all out of stock at most stores across the country.
One of this year’s biggest toys, the Cocomelon Bedtime JJ Doll, is also almost nowhere to be found in the UK amid the crisis in container shipping around the world, which is largely due to disruption caused by the pandemic.
The problems, which have been going on for more than a year, have been exacerbated in many countries, including the UK, in recent months by the fact that there are not enough HGV drivers to collect the containers.
And sellers on eBay are making the most of the low stock levels, with PS5 consoles going for up to £3,000, nearly seven times their RRP of £450; and the Xbox Series X for up to £2,000, more than four times above the same RRP.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max, which costs between £1,049 and £1,549 via Apple depending on the model, is going for up to £3,000 on eBay as retailers such as Ebuyer take pre-orders on their next delivery due in three weeks’ time.
And the Cocomelon Musical Bedtime JJ, which has an RRP of £28, is going for up to £109 on eBay. The doll, based on the children’s TV series featuring nursery rhymes, is one of this year’s most hoped-for toys under the tree.
The London-based website Stock Informer, which tracks which retailers have popular products available, states that there is no stock for any of these four products anywhere other than eBay or online marketplace StockX.
Sellers on eBay are trying to sell a PlayStation 5 for up to £3,000, nearly seven times their RRP, because they are out of stock
Adverts posted by EE and Game over the past few days show how much anticipation there is whenever a PS5 comes in stock
The Xbox Series X console is being offered on eBay for up to £2,000, more than four times above the RRP of £450
The iPhone 13 Pro Max, which costs between £1,049 and £1,549 via Apple based on the model, is going for £3,000 on eBay
The Cocomelon Musical Bedtime JJ doll is a hoped-for toy which has an RRP of £28, and is going for up to £109 on eBay
The company, which earns money from qualifying purchases, checks retailers including Amazon, Very, Currys, John Lewis, Argos, AO, Asda, Smyths, Game and Ebuyer and sends email alerts when rare items come into stock.
The PS5 stock issues have been hitting Sony since it launched the console in November last year, with the firm saying one of the main reasons was huge demand amid a shortage of semi-conductors and other components.
Microsoft has also faced stock issues since launching Xbox X last November and said a fortnight ago that these are set to continue into 2022 amid the ongoing global chip shortages that are also impacting phone production.
As for Apple, its shares fell yesterday after claims that it could cut its iPhone 13 production targets by up to 10million units because of the chip shortage. The tech firm only launched the new model last month.
The data from Stock Informer emerged as transport chiefs warned that a disastrous logjam at Britain’s biggest container port will delay or block the delivery of millions of festive products and Christmas presents.
The situation is so bad at Felixstowe in Suffolk that the world’s largest shipping company, Maersk, has decided to stop some giant container ships from docking in the UK. Instead, it is sending the ships to Europe in the hope that the cargo will be transferred to the UK on smaller vessels to alternative ports or via road and ferry.
Maersk is responsible for 36 per cent of all shipping containers delivered to the UK, which means its decision will have a huge effect across the economy. Each container ship can carry around 12,000 containers, but there are not enough drivers to take them on to UK destinations.
The London-based website Stock Informer, which tracks which retailers have popular products available, states that there is no stock for any of these four products anywhere other than eBay or online marketplace StockX
This means thousands are sitting empty on the dockside at Felixstowe and elsewhere, rather than being used to transport goods around the world.
Flamin’ eck! Stampede to stock up on festive puds
Sales of Christmas puddings are up by 76 per cent compared to last year amid fears of gaps on shelves.
Stores have also seen a surge in sales of frozen turkeys following warnings from industry leaders that there will be at least 20 per cent fewer fresh birds available.
The HGV driver shortage has been blamed for gaps on shelves, which are expected to worsen in the run-up to the festive season.
Most food is sold fresh in the week before Christmas – but some people are stocking up on items with a long shelf life, such as puddings.
Fraser McKevitt, of retail analysts Kantar, who provided the figures, said: ‘A minority of very prepared shoppers took the chance to get ahead… 449,000 eager consumers bought their Christmas pudding in September, with sales 76 per cent higher than in the same month last year.’
But he added: ‘These are still relatively small numbers and anxiety around supply issues has not translated to panic buying – festive or otherwise.’
The Road Haulage Association warned that the crisis poses a real threat to shipments of Christmas products. Rod McKenzie, its managing director of policy, said: ‘Congestion at Felixstowe has a massive knock-on effect in terms of the goods being delivered and what happens afterwards.
‘This is people’s Christmas presents, factory parts or simply online shopping that won’t be delivered on time as a result.’
Delivery expert David Jinks, of ParcelHero, said: ‘We are currently in the middle of peak period for retailers stocking their warehouses for Christmas, and it’s vital this goes as smoothly as possible.
‘This year the ongoing lorry driver shortage, coupled with new delays at ports, could bring us to tipping point.’
He added: ‘There are significant shipping delays across the world, caused largely by new outbreaks of Covid at ports in China. Now the UK has its own unique crisis to add to the global supply chain problems. Britain’s acute truck driver shortage means containers are taking way too long to be loaded onto lorries and leave ports such as Felixstowe.
‘That means companies such as Maersk have to avoid rapidly building bottlenecks by using EU ports to land goods destined for the UK. This will add new delays, especially with Brexit checks in place.’
Lars Mikael Jensen, head of the global ocean network at Maersk, a Danish company, said the UK driver shortage means it is taking longer here to get fully loaded containers moved away from ports and to return the empty ones for pick-up.
He said: ‘We had to stop operations on a ship because there was nowhere to discharge the containers. Felixstowe is among the top two or three worst-hit terminals (globally).
‘We are having to deviate some of the bigger ships away from Felixstowe and relay some of the smaller ships for the cargo.’
Thousands of shipping containers at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk are pictured today as the shipping crisis continues
Maersk has said it is diverting vessels away from UK ports to unload elsewhere in Europe. Felixstowe is pictured today
Retailers, such as John Lewis, have invested millions of pounds buying extra shipping capacity, which has soared in price in the past 18 months, to bring in products from the Far East. But these efforts could now be scuppered.
Now milk faces delivery plight, warns boss
The boss of the UK’s biggest dairy company has warned of rising prices and missed deliveries of milk to stores and customers.
Ash Amirahmadi, managing director of Arla Foods, said that just getting milk to supermarkets is a ‘real challenge’.
By contrast, farmers around the country have been complaining about having to pour it away because there are not enough tanker drivers to make collections.
Farmer-owned Arla supplies butter, spreads and cheese, as well as milk, to stores – but like other industries has been hampered by a shortage of lorry drivers.
Mr Amirahmadi told Sky News: ‘We are very mechanised when it comes to our production of milk and dairy products… but we need drivers to take that to the shops.’
He added: ‘On average we’re delivering to about 2,300 shops a day, and we’re regularly not able to deliver to about 10 per cent of our shops.’
Ikea is among a number of major companies whose shipments are being disrupted. It said: ‘We are experiencing low availability in some of our ranges. With Felixstowe nearing capacity, we have faced some challenges in returning containers to the port.’
The port authorities in Felixstowe, which handles 40 per cent of container deliveries to the UK, said a shortage of drivers means it is taking about ten days before cargo can be taken inland to be unloaded, up from the usual four-and-a-half days.
Last week, the port imposed restrictions on receiving empty containers from Maersk and Evergreen but it has now restarted accepting them.
It said: ‘The pre-Christmas peak, combined with haulage shortages, congested inland terminals, poor vessel schedule reliability and the pandemic, has resulted in a build-up of containers at the port.
‘Empty container levels remain high as import containers are returned and we are asking shipping lines to remove them as quickly as possible.’
Alex Veitch, deputy director of public policy at Logistics UK, which represents the freight industry, warned that the congested ports could become a ‘serious issue for UK supply chains’.
He said: ‘The current issues being experienced at Felixstowe port are partly due to the HGV driver shortage. Our members are reporting that some are struggling to source drivers to pick up and deliver containers, which is causing a backlog in the port which prevents new loads from being landed. There are also issues with finding drivers to work in the port itself.’
Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, said: ‘What has exacerbated the situation are some of the well-known supply chain issues inland here in the UK – the HGV driver shortage is the most prominent of them.’
The UK is said to be short of some 100,000 HGV drivers. The Government has offered visas to bring in 5,000 drivers from overseas, however critics say this is woefully inadequate.