Seriously, let’s talk about toilet paper. There’s been a shortage in the United States since the pandemic began. We’ve all heard the jokes. The assumption is that people are still hoarding. Which is weird, right, because presumably people should start running out of space to store it. There’s something else going on that people are overlooking. It’s the simplest, and actual,explanation.
When you stay at home, you use more toilet paper.
Seriously, you’re not going to work, or school, or out to restaurants. You’re doing all of your persona business at home. That means you’re using more toilet paper, which leads to buying more, which results in empty shelves at the store.
From toilet paper manufacturer Georgia-Pacific’s FAQ on COVID-19:
“Based on IRI (Information Resources Inc., a retailm marketing research group) panel data, along with the US Census, the average U.S. household (2.6 people) uses 409 equivalized regular rolls per year. Using our own calculations, staying at home 24-7 would result in 40% increase vs. average daily usage.”
Let’s Talk About Toilet Paper
How long it will take for the supply to catch up to the new demand is another question. Retail corporations no doubt has standing orders, based on historical sales data. The manufacturers make enough to cover those orders, and maybe a bit more since it’s not perishable. They in turn only ordered at much material — wood pulp, recycled paper, whatever — to fill those order. The supplies of the raw material need to do whatever they do. Add in that a lot of these jobs are going to be considered non-essential, travel restrictions interrupting the supply chain, and everything else going on.
There’s also the issue of when demand will go down. If they increase production and suddenly “the country is open” again, will they end up with a surplus? If they do, will it lead to a drop in price? How would that affect their bottom line? I’m not saying that it’s not a bit warped, but that’s how businesses think. They need to protect their long-term profitability, and that makes seemingly simple things complicated.
tl; dr It’s likely going to be a while before there’s enough toilet paper.