As temperatures soared, grocery retailers claimed to cope well during the four-day Easter and Royal Wedding bank holiday bonanza but The Grocer has learned that demand for party and BBQ essentials in particular pushed supermarket supply chains to the limit.
After Kelvin MacKenzie reported, live on BBC1 on the morning of the Royal Wedding, that his local Tesco in Camberley had been "cleaned out" the night before, shoppers alerted The Grocer to empty shelves and poor availability across all the supermarket chains.
Bread, rolls, burgers, sausages and alcoholic drinks such as Pimm's and Bucks Fizz were commonly mentioned, but also milk and fruit. Online orders also appeared to be impacted, with deliveries cancelled and higher-than-normal out-of-stocks and substitutions.
Complaints on supermarket Facebook pages also suggested that stocks were perilously low.
"I work in Sainsbury's Brentwood [store]," wrote one. "Don't bother going there tonight, cos you will have an empty shopping trolley." "We had nothing on the shelves!" wrote another.
Shoppers on Ocado's Facebook page complained it had run out of milk, bananas and lamb mince. "Loads of special offer products out of stock," wrote one. "What is going on, Ocado," wrote another. One shopper reported to The Grocer that the Royal Wedding had been blamed for poor availability.
Similarly, a Tesco online shopper was told her delivery from its Hookwood store near Gatwick would not arrive the night before the Royal Wedding due to a "serious system error".
Another complained that her orders on both Good Friday and the day of the Wedding were affected.
Morrisons CEO Dalton Philips claimed availability was better than at rival supermarket chains, despite running out of BBQs.
"Because of the way we are vertically integrated we can cope better than others. We can always bake more rolls in-store or make more sausages if we need to."
Morrisons also ran out of bunting "but not until 9am on the day of the Royal Wedding", he added.
Morrisons still wary despite beating first-quarter forecasts (5 May 2011)
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