Last night I wrote about the online socialists who are eager to wring some advantage from images of empty grocery store shelves. Stuff like this:
But but but but there would be shortages in a socialist economy pic.twitter.com/vnYEFUaIVq
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) March 14, 2020
One of the items that has become the subject of the most panic buying is toilet paper. So are we in danger of running out? Not really. The Wall Street Journal reports that there’s plenty of toilet paper in the pipeline (so to speak):
Charmin maker Procter & Gamble Co. and Cottonelle maker Kimberly-Clark Corp. say they have ramped up toilet-paper production and are able to make enough to meet demand. Kimberly-Clark has started posting pictures of warehouses full of toilet paper in some markets. The problem, the manufacturers say, is getting the product shipped to warehouses and retailers, and then onto store shelves, quickly enough to keep up with sales…
Restocking inventory can take several hours or days as goods work their way from the factory to the warehouse to shelves. The consumer-products industry, including suppliers, manufacturers and retailers, have overhauled supply chains over the past two decades to be more profitable and flexible by keeping limited inventory on hand as opposed to stocked up in warehouses. The more cost-effective system means that when demand spikes unexpectedly, supplies run short.
Toilet paper is relatively easy to make. It is produced in the U.S., involves few materials and doesn’t require parts imported for packaging. U.S. industry sales were roughly $9 billion last year, according to Nielsen.
So we probably don’t want to flush capitalism because of a brief shortage. Unlike in socialist countries, the market is responding and there will be plenty of TP for everyone. That doesn’t mean that it’s smart to be out panic buying the stuff. At some point a lot of people are going to be stocked up for a year and will realize they can relax. But the market will adjust to that too. Another item that has been cleaned out at many stores is hand sanitizer. Producers are ramping up to make more of that too.
Purell has experienced a “substantial increase” in demand for its line of sanitizing products, particularly for hand sanitizer and hand-sanitizing wipes and cleaning spray, said a spokeswoman for Purell parent company Gojo Industries Inc. Consumer demand online and at retailers has been especially pronounced, while businesses and health facilities have stepped up orders more incrementally.
She said the company has significantly increased production to meet expected demand, adding shifts and having employees work overtime. The latest rise in demand, she said, is “not unprecedented,” but is more pronounced than outbreaks such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2002-03 and the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009.
Clorox Co., with a slate of cleaning products that includes disinfectant sprays and wipes, has also stepped up production, a company spokeswoman said. The company is prepared if there is a surge in demand, she said.
The run on sanitizer has been much heavier than the run on TP so keeping up with demand will be harder, but we’ll get there. Once some of the panic buying settles down we should see it back on shelves too.