‘Selfish’ petrol panic buyers slammed – as expert warns of ‘long-term’ crisis

An entrepreneur has slammed the “inconsiderate, selfish and greedy” act of panic buying petrol as a North West expert predicted the fuel crisis could become a “long-term issue”.

Jez Lamb, founder of Wirral-based craft beer marketplace, Beers @ No.42, has said being caught in queues for petrol – and the risk of not being able to buy fuel himself – is a huge threat to his small firm, which delivers its products to customers’ doorsteps.

It was today revealed that the army has been put on standby to help ease fuel supply problems that began at the end of last week.

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And today, Jonathan Owens, a logistics and supply chain expert from the University of Salford, has warned the problem could go on and on – and that “we should all be objective and manage our own expectations for the festive period this year”.

Speaking to BusinessLive, Mr Lamb said: “Inconsiderate, selfish, greedy, the list goes on. As a business that has grown through being able to personally deliver to our local customers, I’m now faced with the challenge of not having enough fuel to get around, run my business and earn a living.

Long queues at a Esso Petrol Station in Maghull, as drivers ignore calls not to panic buy amid the fuel crisis.

“I’ve gone past two petrol stations this morning where people are queuing ridiculously. It’s stupid – and causing chaos and gridlock on roundabouts.

“I’m looking at it and thinking ‘I potentially face real challenges here’, because I know in the grand scheme of things, delivering beer is not as important as carers getting into work, and ambulances getting around.

“But when I look at it from a small business perspective, it’s just another thing that puts another challenge in our way. How do we survive and how do we function, if part of what we’ve grown the business on – which is our ability to do local deliveries to our customers – we can’t do it because we don’t have any fuel?”

Founded in 2006, Beers @ No.42 stocks and delivers beers, gins and prosecco across the UK. Mr Lamb said the business has “grown significantly” over the past 18 months.

'Selfish' petrol panic buyers slammed - as expert warns of 'long-term' crisis

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He added: “If you get caught in a queue that you’re not actually in, but it just happens to be on on a delivery route or on the way into work, the day just becomes elongated and delayed.

“If people just bought as much petrol as they normally do, we’d be alright.

“It is just the panic and I think my feeling is it’s got to start to slow down. As each day goes on, it’s got to improve – but having just driven past two petrol stations on the way in this morning, it doesn’t look like will.”

The huge queues at petrol stations have developed over the past few days as supplies come under pressure from a lack of HGV drivers and panic buying.

Speaking about the current crisis, Mr Owens from the University of Salford, said: “We have seen many instances recently of downstream supply chains problems, such as food shelves empty, no or reduced deliveries, and now the fuel crisis is upon us.

“What our supply chains cannot cope with very well is volatility and this has been happening at multiple stages of the delivery process. Normally, a supply chain can cope with a 5% shift in variation due to unusual demand changes, such as ‘spiking’ caused by the customer being spooked into a panic buying mode.

“The current fuel crisis, driven predominantly by the shortage of HGV drivers who are specialised in fuel delivery, is expected to calm down slightly, due to stocking up at the weekend. But this maybe a false dawn because people are still preferring to drive to work as against to using public transport. So with more traffic on the road it could be feasible to expect higher fuel utilisation, and demand is still there. The big question remains if the consumer will remain spooked.”

He said if that happens, the problem will not go away quickly – and will actually cause issues in other areas in the supply chain.

'Selfish' petrol panic buyers slammed - as expert warns of 'long-term' crisis
The UK faces a huge shortage in HGV lorry drivers

He said the Government will be under “extreme pressure” to calm the panic buying – and keeping this in place for the school autumn break period at the end of October.

He added: “They have succeeded before, and the key message is there are no significant problems upstream with fuel supplies.”

Mr Owens warned that Christmas this year will – like last year – be “significantly different”.

He added: “Companies are now making the strategic decision what will be their big seller as so many products will not arrive in time for the festive rush.

“This has been due to the hugely stretched supply chains of getting the goods to the UK. Once they are here, it will be getting them onto the downstream supply chain delivery channels and this won’t be easy, as these will be clogged both with rail and road distribution.

“Therefore, we should all be objective and managing our own expectations for the festive period this year.”

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