Stores in region limiting paper purchases to prevent pandemic hoarding

Empty shelves are back in the two-state region.
Empty shelves are back in the two-state region.(WRDW)
Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 9:00 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It’s happening all over again. Stores in South Carolina are putting up signs telling customers they can only buy one or two paper products for the time being.

According to Piggly Willy store owner Darrell Miller, the signs are just precautionary now and his store is well stocked on paper towels and toilet paper.

“We had just started that last week when the news publications and our own internal information began to tell us there might be some shortages of paper goods. We started putting some limits on it, so we can bridge it through the holidays,” Miller said.

However, shoppers say they are having trouble finding paper goods at certain stores.

Gail Sexton tried to find paper towels at two Sam’s Club locations around Columbia and came up empty.

“It disappointed me very much,” Sexton said.

She said she managed to find some after visiting more stores and is now trying to keep a stock of paper products to get her through the rest of the season.

Other shoppers said they are also keeping a ready supply of paper towels and toilet paper because they know spikes in COVID-19 cases can lead to panic buying.

“I think people are still worried and they don’t know how long COVID is going to last, so they have to limit,” Martha Daniels said.

Miller said while some big box stores like Walmart and Target may be running low on essential products, smaller, independently owned stores are at an advantage.

“We can exercise our prerogative to do some outside buying. We are not tied to any particular wholesaler for everything even though we have major suppliers we can depend on,” Miller explained. “If we are short on something and we can find supplies from someplace else we can do that as well,” he said.

According to the Associated Press, the president and CEO of the Consumer Brands Association, formerly the Grocery Manufacturers Association, says there are some supply chain issues as about 10% of workers in manufacturing plants are calling out sick because of COVID-19. However, the AP reports the industry leader feels confident suppliers are better off now than they were at the start of the pandemic.

But, the lack of paper goods is an issue in places beyond South Carolina. 21 percent of store shelves stocked with paper products like toilet paper and paper towels are empty according to market research company IRI.

Miller says he thinks a lot of the spikes in demand are because people are worried.

“When they hear that there could be another spike in the COVID, which there has been more so in other areas than our areas, and there could be additional close-downs and schools not going back and so forth…they are just interested in having enough stuff at home to handle their needs if all their children are home,” Miller said.

However, Miller said there is no need to be concerned. While his store may not have the exact brand a customer is looking for, they have an ample supply of paper goods ready to meet the demand.

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