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US: Product shortages return due to COVID-19 outbreak

Looking for toilet paper? Good luck.

The increase in the number of new coronavirus infections in the United States is causing shoppers to visit stores to stock up, leaving empty shelves and forcing stores to impose limits on the purchase of certain items.

Walmart reported Tuesday that it is having trouble meeting demands for cleaning supplies at some of its stores. Supermarket chains Kroger and Publix have imposed limits on purchases of toilet paper and paper towels after a recent spike in demand. And most of the disinfectant wipes and paper towels are out of stock at Amazon.

A similar scene was experienced last March, when the pandemic first reached North America, forcing the population to take shelter at home.

But Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Association of Consumer Brands, said he does not expect the situation to be so dire this time around because the confinement orders are regional and the entire population is better prepared.

“Better informed consumers, manufacturers and sellers should give us a greater sense of peace of mind and ensure that we can meet this growing demand,” Freeman said.

The biggest supply problem appears to be among paper products: 21% of the shelves on which paper towels and toilet paper are stored are empty, their highest level in at least a month, according to the company. market research IRI. Cleaning products remain at a 16% level. Before the pandemic, 5-7% of products were typically out of stock, IRI said.

Adding to the problem is the fact that about 10% of the workforce at the plants where these products are made have been reported ill, especially from coming into contact with people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, Freeman said. .

Kelly Anderson, a resident of Colorado Springs, Colorado, said she needs more supplies now that face-to-face classes in her area were canceled earlier this month, so her two children are spending more time at home. You’ve noticed other people stocking up, too: On a recent visit, you noticed that Safeway and Walmart were short of bottles of water and sanitizing wipes, two items that had been easy to find since the middle of the year.

It has also been more difficult for her to have her groceries delivered to her home. Anderson notes that he has had to wait up to two days instead of the regular same-day delivery schedule. But the situation is not as serious as at the beginning of the year.

“March seems like a million years ago, but I do remember panicking,” he said. “It took a week for my purchases to be delivered.”

Walmart reported that even though supplies are low in certain areas, it believes it will be able to cope with any current build-up, unlike at the beginning of the year. Amazon said it works with manufacturers to source products such as sanitizing wipes, paper towels and hand sanitizer.