Cadbury bars, Monster drinks and Haribo shortages hit small shops

A hard-pressed shop owner in Birmingham has said independent shops like his are being forgotten as the country focuses on ‘supermarket shortages’.

Pictures of empty shelves linked to a shortage of HGV drivers, which has also spilled over in to fuel shortages following panic buying in recent weeks, only tell half the story according to Sutton Coldfield shop owner Pete Harding.

The shopkeeper, who has owned College News in Sutton’s High Street for 11 years says smaller independents like his are being ‘ignored’ as he desperately hunts to find stock at cash and carries to serve his returning customers, following a tough 18 months during the Covid pandemic.

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But he and his business partner are now having to scour the region’s cash and carries to find sought after Cadbury products, Monster drinks and Haribo sweets – the sugary treats fuelling the town’s student population at the nearby Sutton Coldfield College.

While shortages as places like Asda, Tesco and Morrisons hit the headlines, Pete is calling for more help for shops like his that seem to be at the bottom of the order chain when it comes to key products.

He said: “This has been going on for three or four weeks. It’s just getting harder and harder.

“Our bestsellers are becoming harder to get. Monster drink, Cadbury’s £1 bars and bags and Haribo bags we can’t get what we need. Also Lucozade and Red Bull.

“Most of these products are bought by students at the college. But there are businesses as well. When the schools and colleges were off, we till opened and used to get a fair bit from the businesses as well.”

Pete Harding has been struggling to get key bestsellers including Cadbury bars, Monster drinks and Haribo sweets beloved by students at nearby Sutton Coldfield College

But now the problem is finding the stock to sell to the returning customers. Whereas they used to go to two cash and carries, once each a week.

Now they are having to go to five-in-a-day to find stock, with those wholesalers restricting the number of boxes of popular products that can be bought at one time.

The 60-year-old who opens College News from Monday to Friday said: “We go to East End in Smethwick, Best Way in Oldbury, Hyperama in West Brom, Barry Lewis in Oldbury, Bookers in Saltley and Dhamecha in Smethwick.

“We live in Great Barr so it’s easier to go to those.

“Where we used to go twice a week, we now have to go four times a week. That’s more time and money.”

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He continued: “My brother-in-law Ian is my business partner and he went to five on Wednesday. He even went to Bookers in Tamworth as he heard they had some stock. It’s hit-and-miss.

“SRA News in Beacon Road near where I live are struggling with the same problems. I know the Green Wagon [by Boots in The Parade] has struggled to get some items like mushrooms

“Places like B&M can buy in bulk and get it cheaper but we can’t.

“It’s hitting sales. We are having people come in and then walk out when they can’t get what they want.

“My argument basically is they mention on the news the likes of Asda, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s can’t get this and that ad everyone’s down there. But they are getting the stock and the independents are suffering.

“I think it’s down to the lorry driver shortage and the cash and carries aren’t getting the deliveries. And the supermarkets are getting them.”

College News in Sutton Coldfield's High Street has struggled during the Covid pandemic and is now being hit by stock shortages
College News in Sutton Coldfield’s High Street has struggled during the Covid pandemic and is now being hit by stock shortages

This supply shortage comes on the back of a hard 18-months during the pandemic.

Pete continued: “More people working from home has hit us hard.

“We have suffered too with not all the office workers coming back. For example there’s a big office unit on the corner which was Jasper’s Catering.

“And when the pandemic started they gave everyone laptops and told them to work from home.

“Now they are renting a small office in Lichfield. We have lost a lot of business from that. All because of this pandemic.

“We have stopped having newspapers and just get them in for those that order them. We found we were being charged more for having them delivered than we made from them.”

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Pete added: “We have been here 11 years, offer a good service and serve customers. All are very pleased we talk to them and help them.

“But if I have not got the stock they will go elsewhere.”

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