British Supermarkets Are Filling Empty Shelves With Eerie Cardboard Cutouts

The cutouts appear to be placeholders for missing food impacted by national supply chain issues.

Remember the scene in Home Alone when Macaulay Culkin rigs up a bunch of mannequins and cardboard cutouts to fool the bad guys? That's basically what's happening in the U.K. right now. The Guardian reports some supermarkets in England are filling bare store shelves with photos and cardboard cutouts of missing merchandise, faking the appearance of fuller stores in the face of supply chain issues.

Perceptive customers are sharing photos of the fake foodstuffs across social media. "Tesco have the fake asparagus out this morning," wrote one Twitter user alongside two photos of produce bins filled with grainy asparagus spear photos. Another tweet shows shelves lined with less-convincing cardboard product silhouettes.

The Guardian explains that the bizarre cardboard goods are a highly literal representation of the supply issues facing the country, stemming from both Brexit and the pandemic. The big question seems to be: Why not just leave the shelves bare? "No one wants empty shelves as it's a negative perception of availability and that can impact sales and leave customers thinking that the store is poorly presented," Steve Dresser, a director at Grocery Insight, told The Telegraph. "Blocking the shelves with cardboard 'fillers' is preferable as it's a nice halfway house, reflecting that gaps are longer term but not forcing the store itself to change layouts."

Interestingly, a Tesco supermarket representative told a different story. The Tesco rep told the Daily Mail that supply issues had nothing to do with the eerie cardboard displays. "For the images that contain fresh food, we have these available for selected large stores to use when there is additional space," the Tesco spokesperson said. "These have been in use for many months now and are not connected to the recent supply chain challenges. Overall availability remains strong." That seems... patently incorrect, but alright. If you need me, I'll be snacking on some cardboard veggies.