Any lasting hopes of a post-pandemic era to rival the roaring twenties have been well and truly dashed this week. Forget flapping the evenings away in a fug of champagne after covid passes. We’ll be lucky to afford Lambrini.
Because, just as consumers find themselves at the mercy of yet another historic moment in time as the hike in National Insurance is confirmed, wallets are set to take yet another hammering – this time at the checkout.
The HGV driver shortage – and the wider labour crisis caused by Brexit – has reached tipping point. And it’s not just bosses of an ‘invisible’ supply chain warning of price pressures, it’s the chiefs of Britain’s biggest supermarket chains.
The latest warning came from Morrisons CEO David Potts. Facing stakeholders over the supermarket’s six-monthly £60m fall in pre-tax profits this morning, he seized the moment to make it clear price inflation was set to hit his shelves.
Supermarkets will, of course, keep prices as low as possible amid the ongoing battle for basket spend. But that means quality could suffer, particularly in own-label ranges. As always, it’s those shoppers who can least afford it that are most likely to lose out.
That’s if consumers can get hold of the products in the first place. Shortages remain commonplace, with apologetic signs displayed in front of empty shelves as logistics operations reach breaking point.
Sadly, there is little sign of the situation improving any time soon.
Government and industry appear to have reached a stalemate over solving the labour crisis and, despite making so many U-turns we’ve lost count, Boris Johnson is holding firm when it comes to immigration.
Perhaps it was always Westminster’s plan drive up domestic wages by stemming supply. If so, it’s worked.
Just last week lorry driver Tom Reddy made headlines when he arrived at work to find he had been given a 40% pay increase to £24.50 an hour. It’s just one example of thousands up and down the country. Drivers hold all of the cards, and businesses are shelling out big bucks to keep them on the road.
That’s not to say lorry drivers don’t deserve a decent wage. But it’s having a devastating impact on the bottom line of businesses operating on wafer-thin margins.
After forging positive relationships across government during the pandemic, the deaf ear response much be a kick in the teeth for industry.
During a candid conversation yesterday a source offered up: “The industry is tired, it’s had enough and to be honest it’s partly why price hikes are getting an easier nod from retailers.”
But can the same be said for consumers?