Are People Still Panic-Buying?
Of course, March was only the first spike. However, as NPR reported on October 24, the U.S. has just achieved a new record in the number of coronavirus cases recorded in a single day. So, we should wonder what stores are doing to prepare for this new building wave, which, as the Middlesex paper has shown, could prompt us into all planning ahead at the same time.
CNN checked in on how business practices evolved to meet these weird fluctuations in purchasing in September. Early on in the pandemic, grocery stores switched from planning weeks in advance to months, ensuring that stockpiles are accounted for. However, they also note that items like paper towels have suffered repeated shortages due to people consistently hoarding them.
Another reason for the lack of paper towels is that they are made with a lean production method that doesn’t account for sudden spikes. As explained in a separate CNN article, Lean manufacturing is when companies only produce the amount they think a consumer will buy that day, which keeps inventory costs low. However, it also causes backlogs when people are building supply caches. Add to this the issue of larger supply chains needed to produce goods like paper towels, and the industry tends to fall behind consistently when a disruptive event, like a global pandemic, hits. Still, with this Middlesex University paper, we might finally start to move beyond blaming consumers who are just trying to navigate a novel situation’s complexities.