Toilet paper harder to find as Americans stockpile again

Virus-Outbreak Retail Shortages
Posted at 2:36 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 16:36:38-04

Americans are again stocking up paper products amid the latest COVID-19 surge, leaving some store shelves empty of basic household goods.

Costco is among those sounding the alarm, warning in an alert on its website that "some warehouses may have temporary item limits on selected items." The cautionary note coincides with warehouse club members who bought toilet paper online getting told to expect delays in getting the product, according to Fox Business News. "Due to increased volumes, you may see a slight delay in the processing of this order," the retail chain stated in an email to Costco customers seen by the network.

Costco declined to comment. On social media, people have recently posted about low supplies of items including paper towels, water and canned peaches, along with toilet paper, at some of the retailer's stores.

Procter & Gamble, which makes products such as Charmin toilet paper and Bounty paper towels, is increasing production by operating factories around the clock seven days a week and moving to boost shipping volumes, the consumer goods giant told the Wall Street Journal in late August.

"This is probably the most challenging supply environment that we've all worked through in my 30-plus years in the industry," Jon Moeller, P&G's vice chairman and chief operating officer, said in a Barclays webcast earlier this month.

Still, the current scenario is not as desperate as it was early in the pandemic, when panic buying made it hard for retailers to keep toilet paper on store shelves. But the latest burst of demand is one reason behind supply-chain difficulties hitting the U.S. and overseas, with labor shortages and shipping delays also affecting the quantity of some products.

"Like all sectors of the economy, papermakers are dealing with challenges created by the ongoing pandemic. These include global and domestic supply chain issues, such as ocean freight bottlenecks and limited truck availability," American Forest & Paper Association CEO Heidi Brock said Tuesday in a statement.

The bottlenecks can be seen in record shipping congestion at U.S. ports, with transit issues involving trucks and freight rail hindering the delivery of cargo from ships to retailers and manufacturers. The California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Friday announced expanded hours for trucks to pick up and return containers in a bid to alleviate the trouble.

"We continue to encourage consumers to only purchase what they need," a spokesperson for Kimberly-Clark said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. The company, which makes Cottonelle and Scott toilet paper, is meeting current demand after increasing capacity early last year, she added.