Majestic wine chain reassures customers shelves ‘will remain full’ for Christmas

The Majestic wine store chain says its shelves “will remain full” for Christmas following a warning that bottles of alcohol could be missing from festive celebrations because of the HGV driver shortage.

The retailer, which has more than 200 stores across the UK, reassured customers it was well prepared, with 20% more stock than last year and 1.8 million bottles of wine in warehouses ready for the festive season.

It follows the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) writing to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Wednesday telling him companies are still struggling to get drinks to customers and urged ministers to do more to address the HGV driver shortage.

The letter was co-signed by 49 firms and warned of rising costs and supply chain chaos risk impacting Christmas deliveries.

Majestic, which was not a signatory of the letter, said it had planned ahead for months to ensure they did not run dry ahead of the festive period, including retaining its own drivers.

Majestic Wine chief executive John Colley said: “As the UKs largest wine specialist we have had the ability to bring in over 20% more stock than last year. That includes over 1.8 million bottles of wine which are now in three additional warehouses – held ahead of the crucial festive period.

“This Christmas may be the year we see other regions rise in prominence in the face of shortages in certain areas. For instance, we are anticipating record South African and English sparkling sales, in place of New Zealand and Champagne respectively.

“With the extra stock we are bringing in, and the focus on intuitive sourcing from up-and-coming regions, we are confident this will mean, at Majestic at least, our shelves will remain full. It might also be the year our customers discover a host of new regions and wines we are sure they will love.”

The WSTA letter, however, signed by major brands including Moet Hennessy, Pernod Ricard and Campari, read: “Businesses are still struggling and further action is needed, particularly now in the run-up to Christmas – a critical trading period for our sector.”

It added: “This is an urgent issue for our businesses and it is imperative that Government takes immediate steps to help mitigate the impact of the driver shortages crisis before the Christmas period.”

Bosses warned the cost of freight had jumped by around 7% to retain drivers and delays at ports were hampering efforts for shipments to arrive quickly.

The group is calling on the Government to urgently extend the temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers beyond the end of February next year for a minimum one-year period to “ease the burden on industry and allow for a sufficient increase in domestic drivers”.

They also want better routing for freights at ports and more regular updates from the DVLA on HGV driving tests and licences, after a huge backlog built up over lockdown periods during the pandemic.