As supermarket shelves sit empty city indies boom

The Read family who run Mike, Debs and Sons on the Norwich Market

The Read family who run Mike, Debs and Sons on the Norwich Market - Credit: Archant

Norwich's independents are shaking off the supply chain crisis hitting their supermarket rivals.

Traders said are able to keep the stalls and shelves full up because they can be more nimble. 

Last week the Road Haulage Association wrote to government warning that a shortage of HGV drivers has meant "supermarkets are already reporting that they are not receiving their expected food stocks and, as a result, there is considerable wastage".

Mike, Debs and Sons on the Norwich Market

No shortages here! Mike, Debs and Sons on the Norwich Market - Credit: Archant

But Norwich's smaller, independent stockists who buy their products closer to home are cashing in. 

Luke Coathrup, the owner of the Green Grocer, in Earlham Road, said he dodges supply issues before they have time to reach his doorstep: "We are in peak local produce season so we rely very little on national wholesale at the moment.


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"I keep an eye on the national picture and when I see prices beginning to fluctuate we adapt to maybe source more  of some products than others. 

Luke Coathup, owner of The Green Grocers in Norwich’s Earlham House shops. Picture: Archant

Luke Coathup, owner of The Green Grocers in Norwich’s Earlham House shops. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

"And that works both ways - if our suppliers have an excess they need to shift we'll buy more and incorporate into dishes in our cafe. 

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"Some of the big supermarkets say they work with local producers but they still have centralised distribution facilities, so it's still been half the way around the country before it makes it back here.

"We buy local and organic as much as possible, and the season we're in has fallen perfectly to buy from Norfolk." 

Mike, Debs and Sons on the Norwich Market

Mike, Debs and Sons on the Norwich Market - Credit: Archant

At Mike, Debs and Sons in Norwich Market, owner James Read said: "At the start of the year we did have a couple of issues getting hold of stuff but that's all sorted out now.

"We've got no problems getting hold of stuff any more because all of our wholesalers are small - and so much of our stuff is based locally we're not relying on lorry drivers to get hold of it every day.

Mike, Debs and Sons on the Norwich Market

Mike, Debs and Sons on the Norwich Market - Credit: Archant

"Some of the soft fruit comes from abroad and there is a £70 pallet charge now which has pushed the price up a bit, but we've absorbed that instead of passing it onto customers. I don't see us having any issues down the line, I think things will just get better." 

Mike, Debs and Sons on the Norwich Market

Mike, Debs and Sons on the Norwich Market - Credit: Archant

Down the road at Thorns DIY, director Miriam Devlin said that a boom in home renovations combined with the Suez Canal crisis had held up some stock. 

But, she added, working with 200 different stockists has its advantages: "Ironworks and some outdoor paints were a bit difficult to get hold of - some of our stock got held up in the Suez. 

"But unlike the bigger brands we're not tied to one stockist. We have over 200 we work with so if we can't get something from one there are others we can lean on."

Thorns DIY in Norwich

Thorns DIY in Norwich - Credit: Archant

Which products are difficult to get hold of and increasing in price?

  • Haribo

The latest shortage to hit the headlines is Haribo. 

The German confectionery business, responsible for Starmix and Tangfastics, said this week: “As is the case with many manufacturers and retailers throughout the country, we are experiencing challenges with regards to the nationwide driver shortage.

“We are working with partners across the food and drink industry to address and respond to this problem.”

  • Timber and building supplies

The price of home improvements has spiked by as much as 80pc as raw material costs continue to soar as a result of Brexit and increased demand. 

According to the latest figures from building suppliers Jewson, building materials and costs have spiked by as much as 25pc in the month of July alone for the likes of builders metalworks. 

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables

Tim O'Malley, managing director of Nationwide Produce PLC, one of British supermarkets' biggest fresh fruit and veg hauliers, said last month: "The acute shortage of HGV drivers is now the direct cause of perfectly good, graded and packed fresh produce being dumped or left rotting in cold stores, waiting for wheels to go under it.

"Supermarket shelves and restaurant plates are going empty, and this is now a crisis of national importance."

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