Keeping shelves stocked is ‘harder work than ever’, says Lidl UK boss

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Lidl UK, shortages of drivers
(Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Keeping shelves stocked is “harder work than ever before” though “the worst times are behind us”, the UK boss of Lidl said on Wednesday (24),  as shortages of drivers, warehouse workers and food processing staff continue to put pressure on grocery supply chains.

Christian Härtnagel, chief executive of the German discount chain’s British arm, has said that problems with availability of products in stores had eased in the past 10 to 12 weeks and “the worst times are behind us” but “daily hard work” was still required to ensure there were no gaps on shelves.

As a combination of the pandemic, Brexit and trade disruption continued to affect businesses, Härtnagel revealed that Lidl UK has been constantly seeking new ways to work around problems, by simplifying ranges and other measures.

Last week, it emerged that Lidl would be investing £18 million to increase wages for its lowest-paid workers, from £9.50 to £10.10 an hour outside London and £10.85 to £11.30 within the M25 from March 2022, as part of efforts to retain and recruit staff in a highly competitive market.

Additionally,  the retailer is set to hire about 4,000 extra staff as it continues to open a store a week for the next four years, to reach a total of 1,100 stores in the UK by 2025.

Härtnagel said Lidl wanted to open stores “from London to Scotland and down to Southampton”, with its main focus on 1,300-sq-metre outlets. He added that it was not considering small convenience stores.

The supermarket chain is investing in digital expansion with the launch of its Lidl Plus loyalty app. It has also registered the Lidl Go name for an app that would help shoppers scan and pay for goods without having to visit a till. Härtnagel said Lidl was “exploring and working on” the service but there were no plans for a launch at present.