Retailers struggled to keep the most popular festive items fully stocked in the run up to Christmas though they had no problems with Bisto or own-label sausages.

Researchers for ECR UK tried to buy 40 popular foods in 200 randomly picked stores between 9 and 15 December last year and found on-shelf availability levels of 90.3% compared with an overall average of 95.3% for the month and 95.8% for the year.

Bisto gravy granules, own-label cocktail sausages and own-label sausage rolls achieved availability levels of 99%, while Paxo sage & onion stuffing, unsmoked gammon joints and After Eight mints achieved 98.5%.

Though retailers had done relatively well they could have done better, said Tarun Patel, head of supply chain initiatives at IGD, which manages ECR UK.

"There is room for improvement, particularly through ensuring technological processes and people are working together at their best," he said.

Achieving 100% availability would require "marrying the best aspects of technology and human capital all the way along the food chain", he added.

n Shoppers will shop elsewhere if items are out of stock, according to research by Accenture. In a survey of 1,000 shoppers, 51% claimed they would go to another shop if their favourite brand of nappies was out of stock, while 43% would shop elsewhere if their preferred meat or fish was sold out.