One of the UK’s major toilet tissue importers has been stockpiling to ensure it can maintain supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
German-owned Wepa has stockpiled an extra 600 tonnes of finished product, or about 3.5m rolls, in UK warehouses.
UK boss Mike Docker said Wepa was now chartering ships to import materials, rather than use trucks.
Last week, Morrisons’ chief executive said the supermarket had seen an increase in demand for toilet paper.
David Potts speculated it might be related to people stockpiling goods ahead of the end of the March deadline for the UK to leave the EU.
If there is no negotiated plan to keep trade running smoothly after Brexit, there are fears that customs checks and changes to border rules could lead to delays to goods moving in and out of the country.
Wepa in the UK is based in Bolton, and has a production site in Bridgend, in South Wales. It has taken on an extra 60,000 square feet of warehousing space for stockpiling.
In addition to the finished product, it has also shipped in extra cardboard and tissue.
Wepa sells toilet paper and kitchen roll which used by retailers for their own-brand products. Customers include Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco.
Shipping loo roll
When the firm starting preparing its so-called “Brexit buster” plan, it looked at the worst-case scenario – leaving without a deal – and prepared for that, Mr Docker said.
It was planning to start shipping tissue from a supplier in Naples, rather than using trucks, as that was felt to be more environmentally friendly, and to cut down on paperwork.
Brexit made the firm accelerate those plans, he said.
In October last year, former Europe minister Denis McShane highlighted Britain’s dependence on toilet roll imports in an article he wrote for Prospect Magazine.
Mr McShane said that the UK was Europe’s biggest importer of loo paper, and that Britons use two-and-a-half the European average number of rolls per year.
He speculated people might have to resort to using “torn-up newspapers as in bygone days” in the event of a disorderly Brexit.
The Confederation of Paper Industries said the UK used about 1.3 million tonnes of tissue per year, 1.1 million of which was imported either in finished form or as a components.
Last week, Morrisons’ Mr Potts said that the retailer had seen a “small amount” of stockpiling affecting sales.
“We’ve seen quite a tick-up in [sales of] painkillers and toilet rolls,” Mr Potts said. “Whether that has any bearing on how people are feeling about Brexit, I don’t know.”
Mr Docker said Wepa had seen a recent minimal increase in customer orders for toilet rolls, but nothing outside of normal monthly fluctuations.