Remember the bare store shelves and shopping carts overflowing with bulk packages of toilet paper and bottled water during last year's initial waves of COVID-19? Bleak scenes at big-box outlets may be making a comeback, thanks to the COVID delta variant sweeping the U.S.
Don't be surprised if you can't find t.p. again at your local Costco store.
Costco (COST) Chief Financial Officer, Richard Galanti, has announced new buying limits on key items like toilet paper, Kirkland brand bottled water and key COVID cleaning supplies in response to delta variant demand surges. Galanti said widespread delivery issues are causing the restrictions, but he assured "we're ordering as much as we can and getting it in earlier."
If panic buying is returning, you may need a strategy to make sure you'll be able to buy the things you need, and at the right price.
Customers complain about Costco shortages
For weeks, Twitter posters have been speculating a fresh round of COVID-related hoarding may be underway.
"Saw a parked car stacked with Toilet Paper in the passenger seat. I sense this is more fear mongering than actually a shortage," tweets GhostEd.
And several Twitter users have reported that Costco stores, in particular, are running out of the essentials.
"Went to Costco this week in ABQ NM; they were out of toilet paper, paper towels and bottled water," says a shopper in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Another Costco shopper writes: "Costco announced rations on toilet paper and other essential products on Friday. Today, we went there, most of the toilet paper was sold out."
Costco hasn't commented; its Twitter page says the account is currently inactive.
'The Squirrels' are stocking up, report warns
One research and data firm is telling retailers they need to be ready for new shortages and hoarding.
Inmar Intelligence bases its warning on a survey it commissioned of 1,000 U.S. adults. Seventy-five percent say they're noticing stores running short of items — and that suggests the country is entering a new season of questions and concerns for shoppers, Inmar says.
Nearly 7 in 10 consumers (69%) say they're planning to buy toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer and similar items, to replenish pandemic stockpiles.
"Shoppers are beginning to have flashbacks of last summer, being in lockdown and not having enough household supplies," says Holly Pavlika, an Inmar senior vice president. "This behavior has created a new shopper segment dubbed 'The Squirrels' — those who will always have an established stockpile in their homes."
Her firm says people are loading up their carts with household basics so they won't have to shop as much, because of anxiety over unvaccinated shoppers, the future course of the virus, and the potential for price increases.
"Retailers will need to continue to be nimble and pivot quickly to keep up with changing behaviors and expectations," Pavlika says in a news release.
How to shop smart this fall and winter
If stores respond to stepped-up stockpiling the way they did earlier, they'll put limits on high-demand items — so you won't see people walking away with armloads of toilet paper multipacks.
If you do decide to make a few big grocery hauls, be careful not to overextend yourself on your credit cards. If you've been relying heavily on plastic during the pandemic, consider rolling your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan, to help pay off that debt more affordably and quickly.
Watch for deals and rewards to get the most for your money, even if the old law of supply and demand teams up with today's already high inflation to put even more pressure on prices. You might download a free browser add-on that will automatically hunt for better prices and coupons whenever you shop online.
And if you could use a little extra cash to help keep your cupboards and cleaning cabinet full, you might consider some low-stakes investing in the high-flying stock market. A popular app lets you build a diversified portfolio using just your "spare change" from everday purchases.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.