x

Society

Toilet Paper Limits, Empty Shelves Are Back as COVID-19 Surges

November 18, 2020

NEW YORK — Looking for toilet paper? Good luck. 

A surge of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. is sending people back to stores to stockpile again, leaving shelves bare and forcing retailers to put limits on purchases. 

Walmart said Tuesday it's having trouble keeping up with demand for cleaning supplies in some stores. Supermarket chains Kroger and Publix are limiting how much toilet paper  and paper towels shoppers can buy after demand spiked recently. And Amazon is sold out of most disinfectant wipes and paper towels. 

A similar scene played out back in March, when the pandemic first hit and people hunkered down in their homes. 

But Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Consumer Brands Association, formerly the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said he doesn't expect things to be as bad this go-around since lockdowns are being handled on a regional basis and everyone is better prepared.

"A more informed consumer combined with a more informed manufacturer and a more informed retailer should provide all of us with a greater sense of ease and ensure we can meet this growing demand, " Freeman said.

The biggest supply issue seems to be paper products: 21% of shelves that stock paper towels and toilet paper are empty, the highest level in at least a month, according to market research company IRI. Cleaning supplies have remained level at 16%. Before the pandemic, 5% to 7% of consumer goods were typically out of stock, IRI said. 

Contributing to the problem is the fact that roughly 10% of the workforce at manufacturing plants where the products are made are calling out sick, mainly because they've been in contact with others who were tested positive to COVID-19, Freeman said.

Kelly Anderson of Colorado Springs, Colorado, said she needs more supplies now that in-person school in her area was canceled earlier this month and her two children are at home more. She's noticed others are stocking up, too: Safeway and Walmart were nearly wiped out of bottled water and disinfectant wipes during a recent visit, both of which had been easy to find since the summer. 

It's also been harder to find a time slot to get her groceries delivered. Anderson says she's had to wait as many as two days instead of same-day delivery. But that's still not as bad as earlier this year

"March seems like a million years ago, but I do remember freaking out," she said. "I couldn't get groceries delivered for a week." 

Walmart said while supplies are stressed in some areas, it thinks it will be able to handle any stockpiling now than earlier this year. Amazon said its working with manufacturers to get items such as disinfecting wipes, paper towels and hand sanitizer in stock. 

RELATED

COLLEYVILLE, Texas — An armed man who took four people hostage during a 10-hour standoff at a Texas synagogue had spent time in area homeless shelters in the two weeks leading up to the attack, and was dropped off at one by someone he appeared to know.

Top Stories

Politics

ANKARA - Turkey's swiveling between offering diplomacy or gunboats and demands that Greece take troops off its islands near Turkey's coast is roiling the waters between the countries and plans to hunt for energy.

United States

NEW YORK – Grammy-nominated artist Eric Alexandrakis announced his latest release due out on February 1, titled Good Girls Never Waltz With Me, another new genre-bending addition to his critically acclaimed TERRA series of releases.

General News

ATHENS – Five members of the World Hellenic Interparliamentary Association (WHIA), with Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis as head of the group, visited Evros on January 12-13.

Video

Despite Huge Volcano Blast, Tonga Avoids Widespread Disaster

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The blast from the volcano could be heard in Alaska, and the waves crossed the ocean to cause an oil spill and two drownings in Peru.