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Frozen-foods chain Iceland may shut shops to beat energy squeeze

Warning: Iceland boss Richard Walker

Iceland boss Richard Walker warns he has been forced to put new store openings on hold after his latest energy bill rose by £20million

Warning: Iceland boss Richard Walker

Warning: Iceland boss Richard Walker

The boss of frozen food chain Iceland has warned he has been forced to stop opening new stores after his last energy bill rose by £20million, more than doubling the total.

Richard Walker said his group was fighting to keep the lights on and called for an energy price cap on UK businesses. The staggering surge in bills has left many retailers concerned about staying open beyond the winter.

Walker said Iceland is bearing the brunt of rising prices more than other supermarkets because it relies on storing food in fridges and freezers. He told The Mail on Sunday: “We have to make decisions because we have this uncontrollable volatility. In some cases, it may be easier to mothball or temporarily close stores because energy costs are just unsustainable.”

Walker, who took over the company from his father Malcolm in 2018, said rising energy prices, wage inflation and labor shortages have faced Iceland’s worst crisis in more than half a century.

He said companies usually try to sign new contracts to hedge against future price increases, but that’s impossible when prices are rising. He said Iceland is facing a cliff as his company’s energy is only secured for the next 10 weeks. “We’re good at selling frozen peas,” Walker said. “We are not electricity traders.

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“If you look at the energy markets spiraling, you know it’s not going to stop there. Winter is coming and nothing is being done about it. Consumers rightly need support, but businesses also need support.’

He said many of his small and medium-sized suppliers had warned of the collapse. “Iceland will be big enough and strong enough to weather this storm,” he said, but he added that suppliers face a “real risk of going bust,” threatening thousands of jobs.

He said the next prime minister had to “fix our totally broken energy markets” in the longer term.

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