Local grocery stores have massively empty shelves. People are buying anything that’ll store, and alot of things that won’t, in mass quantities. It took me 3 stops to find a gallon of milk Friday night. Every 24hr grocery store has started closing for at least a few hours overnight so that they can clean and “restock”, except that they have nothing to stock the shelves with.
Saturday at work I had multiple customers who run local businesses in the store trying to find cleaning supplies because their usual wholesaler has informed them that their usual order has been backordered. Guys, a local ambulance company was desperately looking for general purpose sanitizers so they could clean the ambulances between patients. I sold him the case of Microban spray I’d just found in the no-home overheads, he said he felt bad buying the last case in the store, I informed him that if I had to call an ambulance I wanted the damn thing properly cleaned and walked him to the register.
EVERY company runs on Just In Time ordering these days. Very few companies, including wholesalers, stock large quantities of product above and beyond what they expect to sell within a specific time frame. The only reason Home Depot stocks as much as they do is because we ARE the supplier for a fair number of commercial enterprises.
Let me give you an example of how crazy the current buying trend is: Every year HD does a big cleaning promo in February & March. Every year our store gets a 4’x4’x4′ pallet of oversized packages of Clorox wipes. And EVERY year we sell barely half of that pallet, and the remainder goes clearance and us store employees stock up when they hit 75% off. That is NOT an exaggeration. This year? We sold the last of that pallet of wipes two weeks ago, they never even came close to hitting the 25% off mark. When I left work at 6pm Saturday night we were on track to sell out of bleach by the end of Sunday. Even though we’d gotten an emergency shipment.
In order to stop the panic buying they need to refill every single shelf and KEEP THEM FULL for at least two weekends in a row. Everyone who tried to just buy their normal groceries this past weekend and couldn’t is now going to be doing their damndest to buy an extra one as soon as possible. The site of empty shelves, even if it’s not for the product they were going to buy, is going to continue to trigger the buying of extra.
If this problem was confined to a state. If this problem was confined to a region, or even a corner of the country, they’d be able to have the shelves restocked, and full enough to stop the panic buying, in the space of a week. No problem.
But this is country wide. EVERY SINGLE reasonably sized store (and alot of the smaller ones) in the lower 48 (and according to reports, likely Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, and Europe) has sold out of essentially the exact same things. It’s so bad that even direct from the supplier ordering of supplies like bread flour isn’t an option, both King Arthur Flour’s and Bob’s Red Mill’s websites list their all purpose flours as out of stock until further notice.
The JIT ordering system is fucked. I don’t think it’s physically possible for warehouses, suppliers, and even manufacturers to push enough product out to the stores fast enough to stem the panic buying in short order.
I hope to god that I’m wrong, oh god do I hope I’m wrong. Cause if I’m right this mass hysteria is going to do more damage to this country than the damned virus.
But I don’t think I am.
On the other hand, manufacturing of all of these products just got a hell of a boost (and most of these paper products are USA made too). The trucking companies that move all these products are all looking forward to nice paychecks. And the timing for agriculture is damn near perfect, everyone I know is doing the math to figure out how many extra fields they can plant and how many extra meat animals they can beef up for slaughter. If this had gone down mid-late summer agriculture would be hard put to catch up. So it’s not all bad. But we have to hold it together to get to that point.