Supply Chains Stressed Leading to Empty Store Shelves


With governors clamping down and closing their states due to increased coronavirus positive tests and deaths, some consumers are apparently worried they will never, ever be able to purchase toilet paper again and are stocking up until the next millennia, “just in case.” The result is empty shelves at the grocery store. And supply chains are breaking under the strain.





Others are concerned they’ll never see another piece of chicken or grill another steak and are emptying meat departments. And with the evil virus on the loose, keeping your house clean to prevent the beast from taking up residence requires a lifetime supply of disinfectant and floor wax.

Sorry, but I don’t feel the panic. Now that you mention it, I could use a couple of supersized packages of TP, and can you throw in a half-dozen 18-roll packages of paper towels too?

That is, if you can find it. The first of the hoarders were panic shoppers. But then came the smart shoppers who saw the signs and intelligently purchased 150 rolls of TP because, well, if not them, then whom?

I hope some clever sociologist is taking notes and will tell us all about it when it’s over. It’s been absolutely fascinating to watch.

Across the food and grocery industry, the holidays are starting to resemble the panic of the pandemic spring, when the supply chain was stressed and businesses were teetering. This time around, grocers say the limits are proactive measures, rather than a sign of looming shortages. Still, photos of empty store shelves have again started cropping up online — a sign that the country’s food industry is still on edge as worried customers snap up more toilet paper and milk than they may need.

“We are hearing of retailers putting limits [on] certain goods, but this is a temporary tactic to curb demand,” said Heather Garlich, senior vice president at FMI, the food industry association formerly known as the Food Marketing Institute.





Why buy milk that will spoil before you can drink it? I guess that’s why they call it “panic buying.”

Retailers are putting a brave face on it, but the empty shelves tell us the real story. My Kroger store looked like it had been looted. Even canned goods like vegetables, fruit, and soup had been picked over by scavengers.  The meat department looked like some nightmare version of a Soviet market from the 1980s.

The cleaners aisle had huge gaps where some products were entirely sold out. People aren’t panicked about losing electricity, but there was no frozen pizza and some frozen breakfast food was very low.

Seeing empty shelves is very disconcerting. You wouldn’t expect something like that in a great big grown-up country like the United States. But we will never become immune to the human condition. And that is at the root of this unreasoning buying spree.



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