Sheffield firms face 'perfect storm of costs' in run up to Christmas - will you be affected?

Sheffield companies are facing a ‘perfect storm of costs’ as they battle to keep the shelves stocked at Christmas.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 2:51 pm

A 100,000-strong shortage of lorry drivers, Brexit, Covid, gas price rises and global shipping logjams are piling pressure on bosses at a crucial time of year.

From metals to publishing, from Christmas trees to chocolate and from supermarkets to foodbanks, a huge range of sectors are affected.

Jon Barton, managing director of Vertebrate Publishing in Sheffield, said Covid restrictions had ‘decimated’ paper supply and Brexit had pushed up freight costs because ‘lorries just don’t want to come to the UK’. Brexit also meant books printed in the EU were now taking seven weeks to turn around, up from four. And postage to the EU was now costing £19 per book, up from £6, or £11 for heavier books.

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Jon Barton, managing director of Vertebrate Publishing

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Meanwhile, shipping costs from China had soared six-fold due to a shortage of containers, and UK factories were running out of materials due to being swamped with work.

Digital products

As a result, the 19-strong firm is expanding its digital products business, including audiobooks and e-books.

Christmas tree supply could be affected by supply chain problems

Jon said: “I see a lot issues all over the publishing industry, probably across all industries. Hopefully prices will ease back but supply will suffer in some areas.

“It’s sort of a perfect storm of costs. Brexit has added duties, transport chaos, and labour shortages. Covid has decimated paper supply, energy costs are rising exponentially, while containerised shipping is up ten-fold.”

In manufacturing, Paul Rose, commercial director at Sheffield metal powders company Atomising Systems Ltd, said business was ‘very strong’ but some metals had more than doubled in price and packaging material was up 25 per cent and had longer lead times.

Angela Taylor, of Castings Technology, on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, said they expected energy prices rises to be ‘significant’ and costs would have to be passed on.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak says there will be a 'good amount' of Christmas presents this year. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

She added: “Our customers not only get higher costs from us but also have to account for the impact their own utility consumption will have.”

Earlier this month, Mark Green of the Happy Linen Company said there could be a shortage of Christmas bedding or pyjamas due to supply chain disruptions and price rises

Chris Bonnett, of GardeningExpress.co.uk has warned of a shortage of Christmas trees due to lorry driver shortages in Denmark.

And food banks in South Yorkshire are concerned that supply chain issues in supermarkets will lead to a fall in donations, despite a spike in demand due to the end of the Universal Credit uplift and furlough scheme.

The team at Castings Technology on the Advanced Manufacturing Park.

Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield said Boris Johnson had to take responsibility and sort it out.

He said: “Boris Johnson knew we would face these problems when he negotiated his flawed Brexit deal. The Government’s had five years to prepare and failed to do so. Now they’re blaming everyone else from lorry drivers to pig farmers. He should own up to his responsibility and sort it out.”

Last week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said there would be a ‘good amount’ of products available at Christmas.

He told the BBC: “We’re doing absolutely everything we can to mitigate some of these challenges.

“They are global in nature, so we can’t fix every single problem, but I feel confident there will be good provision of goods for everybody.”

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