UK grocery chains add hundreds of thousands of delivery slots for online orders but admit that they still can’t keep up with demand

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Online grocery delivery services are overwhelmed. Photo by Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images
  • The online grocery sector in the UK is being pushed to its limits.
  • Despite increasing capacity by adding more drivers, vans, and pickers, some of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains and grocery delivery companies say they are unable to keep up with demand.
  • “No matter how hard we work, we simply do not have the capacity right now to meet all the demand we are seeing,” UK grocery delivery company Ocado said in a recent statement.
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The online grocery sector in the UK is being pushed to its limits as the country remains under lockdown and shoppers hustle for delivery slots.

On Wednesday, the CEO of the country’s biggest chain, Tesco, which offers buy online and pick up in and store and home delivery services, said in a statement that there is “simply not enough capacity to supply the whole market,” and that 85% to 90% of all food bought would need to be bought at its stores.

Earlier this month, online grocery delivery service Ocado had a similar message in a statement to customers:

“No matter how hard we work, we simply do not have the capacity right now to meet all the demand we are seeing from existing customers, let alone new ones,” the company said, adding that demand is ten times higher than normal at present.

Both of these companies, along with other major UK grocery chains, have taken significant steps in the past few weeks to increase their capacity for online orders and to prioritise slots for the most vulnerable customers who have been told to stay home by the UK government.

Tesco has increased its home shopping capacity by 20% and said it plans to add an extra 200,000 weekly delivery slots over the course of the next few weeks. To do so, it has added more than 200 new vans, recruited 2,500 more drivers, and over 5,000 pickers, a spokesperson said in an email to Business Insider.

Sainsbury’s, another major chain, has nearly doubled the number of online grocery slots available.

Ocado, meanwhile, is hiring thousands of new logistics workers to help support increased demand and has rolled out new initiatives such as not selling bottled water to customers to free up more space in its vans.

“We have delivered more food than ever,” Ocado said in a recent statement. “Practically every one of the nearly 800,000 active customers we had at the end of 2019…now wants to place at least one order every week.

“This is a level of demand several times our current capacity. With these new bigger grocery shops our customers are doing, even running our warehouses 24/7 with new colleagues to support us, we cannot deliver to more than 250,000 homes in any given week,” it said.