In the early spring of 2020, the shortage of toilet paper and paper towels made headlines around the nation. For weeks on end, these necessary paper goods simply weren't available on retail shelves and were even scarce online. On March 12th, the day after the World Health Organization finally declared COVID-19 an official pandemic, toilet paper soils soared 734% compared to sales on the same day one year prior.
By late summer, paper towels were available but still in short supply compared to normal times, but the newsworthy paper towel and toilet paper gap had largely subsided. Now, in the fall of this pandemic year, industry watchers and insiders fear another paper goods shortage is likely as new cases of the coronavirus spike all around America. (Related: 8 Grocery Items That May Soon Be in Short Supply.)
Markets as disparate as San Diego, CA and Somerset, MA have seen recent upticks in shoppers buying paper towels and toilet paper in bulk, leaving store supplies low. At some locations, people have again begun lining up outside of stores awaiting opening times so they can stockpile these and other essential goods.
"As we approach the election cycle and concerns around unrest as the elections enters into the fray, we've seen people become more and more concerned and their indications of stress and their willingness and desire to stockpile increase with that," Jon Last, president of the Sports and Leisure Research Group, told CBS8 in San Diego earlier this week. His research group recently teamed up with two others to look at the hoarding behaviors of Americans in a survey called the "Back to Normal Barometer."
As CBS8 reports, the study found that "52% of people said they plan to stockpile or have already stockpiled essential goods. More than half of those surveyed said they did so over a concern for a COVID-19 resurgence, 23% said it's due to uncertainty over the upcoming election and 19% said they're worried for social unrest tied to racial concerns."
Last told CBS8 that people who tend to stockpile essential goods usually tend toward the more extreme ends of the political spectrum, thus the upcoming election may well be driving even more hoarding behavior than concerns over a renewed virus shutdown.
Recent reports have also uncovered pandemic-related shortages in everything from medicine to refrigerators to, of course, personal protective equipment and some common foods. For the latest shortages, make sure to sign up for our newsletter.