M&S Christmas ‘food to order’ service sells out of dozens of items

Big turkeys unavailable from range but retailer promises festive food will be available in-store

First published on Fri 5 Nov 2021 10.17 EDT

Marks & Spencer’s online Christmas food ordering service has already sold out of the biggest turkeys, puddings and even Brussels sprout gratin, as shoppers go into overdrive over fears the supply chain crisis could hit this year’s celebrations.

More than 40% of the range of 85 products that makes up the retailer’s guaranteed “food to order” service has sold out, including free range Berkshire Bronze turkeys and crowns, as well as Aberdeen Angus beef joints costing nearly £100.

There are still turkeys available but only smaller-sized birds, with those serving 10 or more people already snapped up. The web service, which is allocated a quota of stock on a “when it’s gone, it’s gone” basis, has also sold out of 12-month-matured Christmas puddings.

M&S said the pre-ordering service had always been very popular “but this year, more than ever. Our slots are filling up but customers will still be able to find all the M&S food they need for Christmas in our food halls.”

The company said many of its new Christmas products were in stores, with deliveries of fresh lines such as turkeys and desserts arriving throughout November and December.

Just 48 of the “food to order” items were still available on Friday, although that figure included turkeys where some weights were sold out. The speed with which products have gone has caught fans of M&S’s upmarket fare offguard, with shoppers complaining on social media after missing out.

Trudie Davidson, who was unable to buy a small turkey joint, wrote on its Facebook page: “How can they be sold out already??”, while Jude Kane commented: “So many things sold out already … Gave up and ordered some lovely bits from Asda.”

There is anger from customers in Northern Ireland, where the service is not available this year. The Irish Sea border has affected M&S’s ability to supply its stores there and it decided there was “too much risk” that customers could be let down on key items.

After 2020’s cancelled festivities, Britons appear determined not to have another Christmas ruined. John Lewis launched its festive advert a week early, after seeing a rise in searches for Christmas products.

M&S’s own research found customers were further ahead than usual, with nearly half expecting to finish gift shopping this month. Two in five intend to do more to mark Christmas than pre-Covid, while nearly 70% are preparing for a big family Christmas.

The early focus on Christmas is supported by new Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, which found one in eight adults had already started shopping for presents and food they would normally have bought a bit later in the year.

In the second half of October, 12% of the 4,400 adults surveyed by the ONS had already bought items they would usually buy nearer the time. The most common items being bought or pre-ordered were food, toys and clothes.

The study also found that 43% of adults were still experiencing shortages when shopping, but that figure was down from 53% last time. Almost a fifth reported being unable to buy essential food, while a similar number were unable to get fuel. About two-thirds said they had encountered less choice or found that items were sold out.

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