Christmas online food shopping in chaos with few slots left before the big day

Shoppers looking to avoid the crowds as Covid surges risk a Christmas without turkey as online delivery slots are filling up fast.

Supermarkets admit they are facing an unprecedented level of demand, with scores of shoppers taking to social media to vent their frustration at being unable to book a delivery slot in time for December 25.

Tesco said the majority of its online delivery slots for Christmas are now booked up and it advised customers to shop in store where possible “to free up slots for those who need them most.”

While Sainsbury’s told us they “strongly encourage” shoppers to help each other by sharing delivery slots and “shopping for others where they can.”

Other major supermarkets such as Asda and Morrisons have also confirmed they are seeing a higher than usual demand for food deliveries.

The festive rush is seeing many shoppers miss out, or feel forced to brave the crowds in store as coronavirus cases soar across the UK.

On Twitter, Jennifer MacDonald told Tesco: “I just received my online delivery (last slot available that I could select before Christmas) and one product not available with ‘no appropriate substitution available’ – only the turkey!!! Really?! On 17 December no alternative turkey you could send? Beyond disappointed.”

Tesco replied: “Please accept my sincerest apologies. I understand how disappointing this must be. We are doing our very best to support everyone at this time of year, unfortunately we are unable to help this time.”

As many Brits self-isolate or try to avoid busy stores, they are facing a dilemma over how to get their groceries.

Ryan Peach said to Tesco: “There are no delivery slots available and I’m having to isolate are there any options available ?”

Tesco replied: “I’m sorry that you are struggling to get a slot. I’m afraid that as these are fully booked, I’m unable to assign you a slot or make a slot available for you.”

“That’s a shame you would think when u can’t leave the house that Tesco would be able to organise a slot!” Ryan replied.

A Tesco Spokesperson said: “There is unprecedented demand for online grocery shopping this year and, since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, we have more than doubled our online capacity to around 1.5 million slots a week.

“While we have significantly more slots this Christmas than ever before, the majority are now booked up and we apologise to those customers who weren’t able to secure one on the day of their choice.

“Our advice to customers still planning their festive shop is to shop in store where possible in order to free up slots for those who need them most.”

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s said that they strongly encourage people to help each other by sharing deliveries.

A spokesperson said: “There are still some slots available in some areas, but availability will vary depending on a customer’s location.

“We’ve seen unprecedented demand for our home delivery service in the run-up to Christmas.

“This year, more than ever, we strongly encourage communities to support one another during the festive period by sharing deliveries and shopping for others where they can.

“We have extended our Christmas store opening hours to support this and make sure everyone can shop safely with us and since March have expanded our contactless Click & Collect service to over 300 locations.”

Another person wrote on Twitter: “I have to go to Asda and gosh I’m worries it’s going to be busy and no social distancing.

“But I need to get food and there’s no delivery slots online.”

While another wrote: “Well done Sainsbury’s – not a single slot available until December 28. You are bloody useless!”

Speaking to MailOnline, the chief executive of Retail Economics, Richard Lim, told how the coronavirus pandemic had sparked a “seismic shift” in how we shop.

He told the news website: “What’s interesting with food is that it seems to be the part of the (retail) sector where there’s been a permanent shift.”

He warned that supermarkets “are limited by capacity, and it takes years to alter delivery services”.

Brands would have to bolster their warehouses and shore up their online infrastructure – which can “take years”, he warned.

Meanwhile, supermarkets are one place where a change in our shopping habits during the pandemic has stuck, and stuck hard. Whereas other retailers saw their footfall return as the initial lockdowns eased, supermarkets have seen little dip in their online orders which spiked at the start of lockdown.

It appears Brits who turned to online shopping at the start of lockdown have stuck with it – and supermarkets have not had enough time to adapt their structures to match it.

At Asda, delivery slots were “few and far between”, a spokesperson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the supermarket’s lorries will not be being sent out on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, meaning Wednesday will be the cut-off for making a booking.

A Morrisons spokesperson said: “At the moment there’s limited slots available online at Morrisons.com.

“There’s more ways to shop at Morrisons this Christmas including Click & Collect, Amazon or Deliveroo as well as Food Boxes delivered direct to your door or Doorstep Deliveries where an order is placed over the phone, and delivered via your local store the next day.”