TAMPA, Fla. — In early March, when America realized the coronavirus turned into a pandemic, essentials like toilet paper and cleaning products were must-haves. And, retailers struggled to keep them in stock.
“That was a shock on the supply chain. All of a sudden everyone had to have toilet paper,” said Cathy Roberson, a supply chain specialist at Logistics Trends & Insights.
“They just flat out couldn't keep up. The manufacturers could not keep up with that,” Roberson said.
But several weeks into the pandemic, it seems as though the supply chain for diapers, wipes, disinfectants, and other essential products are finally catching up with the demand.
Lisa Anderson, a supply chain specialist at LMA Consulting, said companies are starting to produce more products than average to keep up with the demand. “They are collaborating with different people and they're sharing talent,” she said. “All of those reasons, the supply chain will get caught up much faster.”
Both Anderson and Roberson said we still have several more weeks to go before store shelves go back to being fully stocked.
Until then, supermarkets and big-box retailers like Publix, Target, and Walmart will continue to place a limit on how many items customers can buy during each visit.
In a statement, Walmart said “Customer demand remains high for some products … but they continue to replenish store shelves and work with its supply chain to meet their customers’ needs.”
Target said it is coordinating with its stores, distribution centers, and suppliers and putting high-demand products on a fast-track through its supply chain.
Maria Brous, director of communications for Publix Supermarkets said in an e-mail that the company is seeing better conditions in many categories but toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other paper products “have been slower to rebound.”
While retailers seem hopeful that household products could be making a comeback, some food producers are concerned that the food supply chain is in jeopardy.
On April 27, Tyson Foods took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post and the New York Times where the chairman, John Tyson shared his concerns and warns that “the food supply is breaking.”
“We could very well see a shortage of meat. But that will be short term,” said Roberson. “I think we’re going to be okay.”
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