UK warehouses ‘full’ ahead of EU exit date

4 July 2019

Businesses may struggle to stockpile ahead of the latest EU exit date of 31 October as UK warehouses are full, an industry body has warned.

Peter Ward, CEO of the UK Warehousing Association, said there was less capacity now than there was in the build-up to the original 31 March exit date and there was additional pressure as firms gear up for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas.

“It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the logistics industry,” he said on Newsnight

Warehouses in the UK are currently at "pretty much 100%" capacity which means there is not as much space available for additional stockpiling as politicians seem to think there is, he said.

Last week, cabinet minister David Lidington said Brexit preparations had resumed ahead of the 31 October deadline, including securing “additional warehouse space” for essential medicines for the Department of Health and Social Care.

Meanwhile, retail bosses have also weighed in on the prospect of leaving the EU at the end of October and agreed stockpiling will be harder to manage.

Speaking to the BBC, Dave Lewis, CEO of Tesco said: “It will be more difficult to do that in October because all of the network will be full of things getting ready for Christmas. There’ll be less capacity but we’ll do whatever is practicable depending on how things develop between now and then.”

He added much of the concern around a no-deal Brexit stems from uncertainty around how border and trade arrangements may interupt supply chains, as the UK currently imports 50% of its food. 

“If there’s a problem at the border, if there’s a problem with tariffs, there could be interruption,” he said. 

While ultimately Brexit is out of his control, Lewis said Tesco will do “whatever it can” to help customers and safeguard the business throughout the transition. 

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe said the October deadline was “not far off the worst day possible” for retailers looking to stockpile goods. 

According to The Guardian, Coupe said: “Our warehouses start to get pretty crammed during the course of October as we are stockpiling to be able to cope with the Christmas season … there are generally very, very few places you can go and the nature of the supply chain [for toys and other non-food goods] means you can’t really stockpile this kind of item.”

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