It’s happening again. The Americans went back to hoarding toilet paper.
Procter & Gamble, the U.S.’s largest maker of toilet paper and towels, said it was increasing production as demand grew. The move comes after several chains said the company was limiting the amount of toilet paper it sends to its branches.
The company, which makes the Charmin toilet paper brand and Bounty paper towels, is accelerating production lines, keeping factories open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and making efforts to increase shipments, a company spokeswoman said. Procter and Gamble declined to comment on the limits on the amount of paper sent to stores.
Far from the peak of shortages last year, but still noticeable
The last jump in demand comes after many months in which sales of biodegradable paper products dropped to levels below pre-epidemic levels, when Americans who accumulated quantities of toilet paper stopped purchasing it.
The situation is not as serious as it was at the time of the plague, when customers in a panic emptied store shelves and stockpiled large quantities of paper towels and toilet paper. Paper products, including paper towels and toilet paper, were in stock at 86% as of August 29, according to market research firm IRI. This is a lower than average rate for consumer products, but not even close to the peak of the shortage of toilet paper last year when the stock stood at only 40%.
Procter and Gamble say government assistance, preparations for returning to school and an increase in the number of Corona cases have led people to buy more household products. Meanwhile, the cleaning habits born during the plague continue to exist.
Sellers have said the shortage has improved since last year, but they are still struggling to achieve the range of sizes and brands of toilet paper and paper towels. Many supermarkets have received incomplete orders, and the U.S. supply chain is damaged due to a shortage of raw materials and labor.
The Massachusetts supermarket chain Roche Bros has struggled to get regular deliveries of toilet paper in the past month, said Arthur Eccles, vice president of merchandise and procurement at the company.
“Customers ask a lot of questions,” said Eccles, who said Roche Bros received notices of restricting shipments from Procter and Gamble last week. Some items have been unavailable for several days in recent weeks, and Eccles fears more such temporary shortages will cause consumers to develop a pattern of buying out of panic.
“I do not think we have fully recovered from the time the supply chain was hit hard”
Roche Bros. and several other stores said shoppers are buying more basic products like toilet paper and cleaning products as the Delta strain has increased the number of Corona infections across the country. In response, the supermarket chain is testing other suppliers of paper products and trying to ensure access to more products, Eccles said, although stores do not have much extra space to store large-volume toilet paper packages.
“I don’t think we have fully recovered from the time the supply chain was hit hard,” he said. In the southern United States, Food City buys toilet paper from smaller manufacturers so that it does not have empty spaces on the shelves.
“We put what’s on the shelves,” said Steve Smith, CEO of the chain, which has offices in Abingdon, Virginia. Demand for toilet paper has remained high in the supermarket chain, with sales up 7 percent in the past four weeks from the same period last year. Was the second best month in terms of sales since the onset of the plague.
Other sellers said they were seeing an increase in demand for cleaning products due to concerns about an increase in the number of cases and the return of cold weather. The SpartanNash chain in the western U.S. holds a much larger “safety stock” of these products, said Dave Petco, the chain’s supply chain manager, although different items return to stock at different times.
Paper product sales rose 8% in the three weeks ended August 22 compared to a year ago, according to the IRI.
In the consumer products industry more widely, companies that manufacture and sell products, from alcohol-based hand sanitizers to wet wipes work hard to prevent the deficiencies that were in the country during the first months of the epidemic.
Supply levels have not yet returned to normal. In March 2020, when household goods purchases were at their peak, stores ran out of an average of 13% of items, according to the IRI. Currently, about 11% of the items are missing, compared to the normal range of 5% to 7% before the plague.
This equation has become more complex in that there are disruptions along the entire supply chain, rising material prices, labor shortages and changes in consumption patterns in line with the rise and fall in the number of corona cases. Companies that increased production a year ago have been hit in recent quarters as demand has fallen sharply in the spring and summer.
Clorox, a company that produces disinfectant wipes that were among the hottest and hardest to find products at the time of the epidemic, doubled production last year and also made an effort to increase the production of other detergents. Clorox employed third-party manufacturers and continued to operate the factories around the clock to maintain a sufficient inventory of products.
“We feel our supply chain is stronger than in the early stages of the epidemic,” a Clorox spokeswoman said. “We anticipate that we will be able to meet the demand and also anticipate that there will be a large variety of Clorox disinfectant products on the shelves, including wipes.”
The company Gojo Industries, which manufactures the Purell antiseptic gel, rebuilt the supply chain and added another factory and another large warehouse in the US, as well as doubling the volume of manufacturing activity.
Procter and Gamble and other manufacturers of toilet paper have increased production on a smaller scale. Manufacturing toilet paper in bulk requires a huge machine, a collection of well-coordinated parts that reach the height of a four-story building, and building such an array can cost billions of dollars and take many months.
The company Kimberly-Clark, maker of Cottonelle toilet paper and Scott toilet paper, presented quarterly data this year that showed the largest quarter-on-quarter decline in the past decade, as demand for the company’s products plummeted in the first half of the year. The company is monitoring the situation, a spokesman said.
“We are still vigilantly examining customer demand and will continue to produce and ship as many products as we can to sellers,” he said.