Christmas drinks

Wholesalers are calling on the government to provide clear guidance on what will follow the national lockdown, which is due to expire on 3 December

Wholesalers have urgently called on the government to provide ‘crucial’ clarity on its post-lockdown plans for the hospitality sector as Christmas trading hangs in the balance.

The second national lockdown is due to expire on 3 December. So far, the prime minister has confirmed the country will revert back to a tier system but has stopped short of giving any further details.

This has left wholesalers in the dark over which regions will be impacted by the tier system from 3 December, disrupting plans for Christmas trading.

“In a ‘normal’ year, having so little visibility of predicted December demand at this stage would be unthinkable. Yet most customers feel entirely unclear what kind of Christmas to plan for,” said Brakes CEO Hugo Mahoney.

“Given how important December is for the hospitality industry, after a difficult year, it is crucial that the government supports by providing the industry clear, consistent guidelines, without delay,” he said. “Multiple tiers of restrictions and the inconsistent approaches taken by the devolved administrations add unnecessary complexity. We need early warning on any restrictions still in place from 3 December, so we can work with suppliers and customers alike, helping them to capitalise on this year’s reduced Christmas window.”

Caterforce MD Gary Mullineux warned: “If wholesalers don’t plan for business as usual in December and lockdown restrictions are suddenly lifted then we will see stock shortages and reduced service levels impacting the hospitality industry at the worst possible time. If Christmas doesn’t happen in hospitality, then a lot of our customers won’t survive the winter.”

The Federation of Wholesaler Distributors said it was continuing to press government for more details.

A Defra spokeswoman said: “We fully recognise the impact of Covid-19 on the UK wholesale industry and are committed to supporting it during this difficult time. We are in regular contact with the wholesale industry to ensure it is well prepared for a range of scenarios, and we continue to take all the necessary steps to ensure people and businesses across the country have the food and supplies they need.”