A scarcity of online delivery slots risks sending scores of Christmas dinner plans up in smoke.
Shoppers are desperately scrolling through slot times but finding they are fully booked or will not arrive until after December 25.
Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons all confirmed to MailOnline that they were grappling with a high demand for deliveries amid a festive rush.
The last-minute dash for produce also appears to have resulted in supply issues – which left one Tesco customer furious when her delivery arrived with no turkey.
Experts said that coronavirus had triggered a ‘seismic shift’ in the retail industry which is increasingly migrating online.
But as Christmas approaches they warned supermarkets capacity is stretched and stores are buckling under the demand for deliveries.
Kath Hedley, 76, from Sudbury, Suffolk, who had been using online deliveries during lockdown, said for the past three weeks she has tried to book a Christmas week slot.
‘They always show as unavailable,’ she said. ‘So we will have to start shopping again.’
Her frustration will resonate with people self-isolating, now wondering how they are going to source food, and others choosing to avoid public places ahead of meeting relatives in the Christmas relaxation.
The scramble for food appears to have resulted in shortages – which left one Tesco customer furious when her delivery arrived with no turkey
Shoppers are desperately scrolling through slot times but finding they are fully booked or will not arrive until after December 25. An Asda in London is completely booked for deliveries
People took to social media to vent their frustration at not being able to clinch a booking
Posting a photo of her order, Tesco customer Jennifer fumed on Twitter: ‘Just received my online delivery (last slot available before Christmas) and one product was not available with ‘no appropriate substitution available’.
‘Only the turkey!!! Really?! On 17 December no alternative turkey you could send? Beyond disappointed.’
Others complained at not even being able to book a time to have their order delivered.
Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics, said that the pandemic had caused a sea change in how the nation shops.
He told MailOnline: ‘The impact of Covid-19 has seen a seismic shift, with customers shopping online.
‘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 explained that, unlike other retail outlets which regained physical footfall when their stores opened after lockdown, the change in food shopping behaviour has been ‘sticky’ and the use of online deliveries has not regressed since restrictions eased.
Yet he warned that supermarkets ‘are limited by capacity, and it takes years to alter delivery services’ such as shoring up warehouse and online infrastructure.
Boris Johnson has relaxed coronavirus restrictions so that three households in England can mix between December 23-37.
The temporary easing of curbs has put family gettogethers back on the menu – along with traditional Christmas dinners.
As a result, online delivery slots have been snapped up and left many unable to book an order that will arrive in time.
Ryan Peach tweeted Tesco, saying: ‘There are no delivery slots available and I’m having to isolate are there any options available?’
Karen from Tesco responded: ‘Hi Ryan. 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.’
Mr Peach was left deeply unimpressed: ‘That’s a shame. You would think when you can’t leave the house that Tesco would be able to organise a slot!’
Another person wrote: ‘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.’
Another said sarcastically: ‘Well done Sainsbury’s – not a single slot available until December 28. You are bloody useless!’
Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘Retailers are working as hard as they can to fulfil the huge increase in demand of online delivery requests this Christmas.
‘The ongoing pandemic is putting enormous pressure on delivery across the country, but as always firms will to what they can to address and rectify any issues as soon as they are made aware of them.’
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: ‘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.’
An Asda spokesperson confirmed to MailOnline that delivery slots were ‘few and far between’ and that, because their lorries are not dispatched on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Wednesday would be the cut-off to get 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.’
A Tesco spokesman said: ‘We work hard to provide great availability for all our Festive Food to Order range items including turkeys.
‘This range is available for delivery from 20th December as it is fresh produce. We were sorry to hear that Jennifer did not receive the frozen turkey that she ordered and we are working to resolve this for her.’