Christmas presents might go undelivered this year due to a driver shortage that is already acute.
Berry Recruitment, one of the biggest temporary worker suppliers in the country, has said the situation is worsening.
It estimates that demand is running at 30 per cent above supply and that figure could well increase in the last quarter of the year.
The combination of far more online ordering and fewer European workers has created a perfect storm.
Recent figures have shown the retail sector growing, with online sales nearly 50 per cent higher than in February.
There is also a shortage of other blue-collar workers for jobs such as packing, food production, order picking in supermarkets, production line staff and industrial operatives.
Lee Gamble, managing director of Berry Recruitment, which works from almost 40 locations across England and Wales, said: “The situation is the same across the country.
“The lockdown has led to far more people ordering online. Many who had never used the internet for shopping are now converts, and more businesses are selling online.
“This has created a huge extra demand for all classes of driver, from HGV to local delivery drivers.
“What has exacerbated the situation is the lack of European workers. When lockdown looked likely many of them returned home.
“Often they live in small homes here to minimise costs allowing them to send more money to their families. Obviously they didn’t want to be locked down in these properties.
“Neither have they returned because of the COVID situation, which is clearly not over, and the uncertainty over Brexit.
“We did expect to see retail and hospitality workers who have lost their jobs and those on furlough looking for extra work to help pick up the slack.
“But that hasn’t happened as yet. We don’t know why these people are not coming forward – possibly some have decided to wait for the new year before they start looking for work.
“The reality is that if people don’t do their internet shopping early their Christmas presents might well not arrive in time.
“The positives are that there are a lot of jobs out there, albeit possibly not the ones people ideally want.
“The shortage is such that I am advising our clients to hang on to their temporary workers even if there is not enough work for them – because when they do need them there might not be any.
“There is a shortage across all blue-collar roles and anyone looking for work should be able to find it.”