'Obscene' prices causing havoc for packaging and online businesses
The boom in online shopping has been tagged as a lifeline for businesses - but with greater demand comes increased competition for scarce replies.
And the protective packaging around everything from books to bottles has been among the most sought-after commodity.
Norwich's Thompson Packaging has seen demand leap 35pc during lockdown, and produced 15m of its sustainable boxes in 2020 compared to its predicted 10m.
The results have seen its 30 staff in Norwich working under Covid-compliant split shifts from 6am through to 10pm at night, and prices for materials sky rocketing as they are gobbled up by global ecommerce behemoths.
Director Nick Thompson said: "As a family-run business we all just had to look at what was coming in and try to keep up - our staff have been phenomenal.
Materials to make packaging have got much more expensive - not only because Brexit made supply harder to come by but also because so many businesses were buying it up.
It's strange because although we have been hugely busy - we supply largely food and drink businesses - other people who manufacture packaging products have gone out of business because they supply corner shops and events companies."
One such business is the Winberri Vineyard in Surlingham, which usually can get packaging supply within a few days but instead has seen lead times of up to two months.
Owner Lee Dyer said: "We changed suppliers in May 2020 - previously we had been using a Chinese supplier but it was very disrupted and we thought now was a good opportunity to reduce the air miles of our business. So now we source in the UK a more sustainable but more expensive packaging method.
The prices have just become obscene - for any faction of my supply chain, particularly from Europe. We've had the double whammy of the virus and also an increase in handling fees because suppliers are having to spend more time doing the paperwork."