'No toilet paper, again?!' Shortages and hoarding pop up as COVID delta surges

·4 min read
'No toilet paper, again?!' Shortages and hoarding pop up as COVID delta surges
'No toilet paper, again?!' Shortages and hoarding pop up as COVID delta surges

Remember the bare store shelves and shopping carts overflowing with bulk packages of toilet paper and bottled water during last year's intial waves of COVID-19? The bleak scenes at the big-box stores may be making a comeback, thanks to the COVID delta variant sweeping the U.S.

Don't be surprised if you can't find t.p. again at your local Costco store.

A new survey finds three-quarters of Americans are already seeing product shortages, and most shoppers also say they're planning to do some stocking up of their own because of the delta surge. Stores could respond by slapping new limits of purchases of basic items, like toilet paper.

If panic buying is returning, you may need a strategy to make sure you'll be able to buy the things you need, and at the right price.

New shortages reported at Costco

Lewisville, TX, USA- APR 20, 2018: Logo of Costco storefront.
Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock

People on Twitter say they're seeing evidence that another round of COVID-related hoarding may be underway.

"Saw a parked car stacked with Toilet Paper in the passenger seat. I sense this is more fear mongering than actually a shortage," tweets GhostEd.

Several Twitter users have reported that Costco stores, in particular, are running out of the essentials.

"Went to Costco this week in ABQ NM; they were out of toilet paper, paper towels and bottled water," says a shopper in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A man in Las Vegas writes: "What is wrong with people? Did we not learn from last year at all? I pulled up to Costco and they are out of toilet paper and water. These people never learn."

Costco hasn't commented; its Twitter page says the account is currently inactive.

'The Squirrels' are stocking up, report warns

A view of empty shelves at a department store during the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
Orlowski Designs LLC / Shutterstock

A research and data firm is telling retailers they need to be ready for new shortages and hoarding.

Inmar Intelligence bases its warning on a survey it commissioned of 1,000 U.S. adults. Seventy-five percent say they're now noticing stores running short of items — and that suggests the country is entering a new season of questions and concerns for shoppers, Inmar says.

Nearly 7 out of 10 consumers (69%) say they're planning to buy toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer and similar items, to replenish pandemic stockpiles of that kind of stuff that they started keeping last year.

"Shoppers are beginning to have flashbacks of last summer, being in lockdown and not having enough household supplies," says Holly Pavlika, an Inmar senior vice president. "This behavior has created a new shopper segment dubbed 'The Squirrels' — those who will always have an established stockpile in their homes."

Her firm says people are loading up their carts with household basics so they won't have to shop as much, because of anxiety over unvaccinated shoppers, the future course of the virus, and the potential for price increases.

"Retailers will need to continue to be nimble and pivot quickly to keep up with changing behaviors and expectations," Pavlika says in a news release.

How to shop smart this fall and winter

Smart shopping. Close up cropped profile shot of a beautiful young woman choosing products.
Nestor Rizhniak / Shutterstock

If stores respond to the stepped-up stockpiling the way they did earlier, they'll put limits on high-demand items — so you won't see people walking away with armloads of toilet paper multipacks.

If you do decide to make a few big grocery hauls, be careful not to overextend yourself on your credit cards. If you've been relying heavily on plastic during the pandemic, consider rolling your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan, to help pay off that debt more affordably and quickly.

Watch for deals and rewards to get the most for your money, even if the old law of supply and demand teams up with today's already high inflation to put even more pressure on prices. You might download a free browser add-on that will automatically hunt for better prices and coupons whenever you shop online.

And if you could use a little extra cash to help keep your cupboards and cleaning cabinet full, you might consider some low-stakes investing in the high-flying stock market. A popular app lets you build a diversified portfolio using just your "spare change" from everday purchases.

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.