Asda is battling a shopping cart shortage in the run-up to Christmas.
The supermarket is waiting to replenish trolley stock after placing an order in October, as manufacturers in China face tough Covid restrictions and a surge in cases.
In some locations across the UK, Asda shoppers have encountered empty cart racks as a result.
A spokesperson for the supermarket said: “We know that a few stores have fewer carts available than usual and we apologize to customers for any inconvenience this may cause.”
The company had attracted complaints about a shortage of stores in Ashford, in Kent; Runcorn in Cheshire; and Smethwick, near Birmingham, among other locations.
It is also understood that at least one other supermarket has been affected. A spokesperson for the British Retail Confederation (BRC) said the companies were “working with suppliers to address the shortage of trolley-related items, which is currently affecting a small number of stores”.
Much of the UK’s supply of shopping carts comes from China, where exports have been hampered by strict Covid restrictions.
A spokesperson for one company in the manufacturing, warehousing and logistics Palletower – which itself is not affected by the disruption – said: “A lot of [supply] It is produced in Shanghai and at the moment the Covid restrictions are very strict and factories are closed every few weeks.
“We can buy huge inventory in advance, however [other] Businesses will request at the appropriate time that they reach the customer. If this resource is experiencing a Covid outbreak in China, they can shut it down for two weeks.”
Supermarkets deal with trolleys that disappear on a permanent basis because they are stolen, and have to factor in the constant change in their business.
Medium-sized stores within walking distance of residential areas have much higher incidences of theft because carts are used to take items home.
Asda said it has installed stronger locks in some of its stores as trolley theft rates rise, to deter thieves.
It also runs an abandoned cart collection service using an app called Collex, through which shoppers can flag finds and collect abandoned carts.
All Asda carts currently cost £1 to unlock across their 600-strong holding.
The news comes amid one of the busiest periods of the year for retail, as shoppers flock to supermarkets to stock up on festive food, drinks and gifts.
Kantar predicted that grocery sales would rise to more than £12bn this December for the first time thanks to a combination of inflation and festive spending.
Asda grew its sales slightly faster than rivals Tesco and Sainsbury’s in the 12 weeks to December 3. Its sales grew 7.7%, compared to Tesco’s 6.5% and Sainsbury’s 6.6% year-on-year, according to Nielsen data.
Asda hopes to eventually overtake Sainsbury’s to become Britain’s second largest supermarket. This month, it revealed plans to open 300 convenience stores between now and 2026. It claims doing so will create up to 10,000 jobs.
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