Grocery stores are beginning to prepare for an increase in demand for certain items as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge to record levels across the U.S. Companies are concerned they could face shortages similar to the ones seen early on in the pandemic, so limits on certain products could come back into play. As of Thursday evening, there are at least 10.5 million coronavirus cases recorded in the U.S. and over 242,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The product limits started earlier this week, when Kroger announced limits on toilet paper, paper towels, disinfecting wipes, and hand soap to two per customer. H-E-B, another grocery store chain, announced its own limits on similar items, plus rubbing alcohol, first aid and cleaning gloves, and hydrogen peroxide, reports ABC News. "We absolutely are starting to see shortages again," Centricity Incorporated CEO Mike Brackett told Good Morning America Thursday. "We think that there's going to be a lot of limits," he said, adding that the earlier restrictions could help prevent shortages and the stockpiling seen earlier this year.
Clorox admitted last week during an earnings call that they are still not "at a point" where they can "fully meet ongoing elevated demand." The company's cleaning products have been rarely seen on store shelves throughout the pandemic and the shortages could continue through the end of the year. "If we think about our supply chain, normally we’d have a couple months’ worth of inventory, retailers would have maybe a month or so of inventory," Andy Mowery, Clorox's chief product supply officer, told Fast Company this week. "We saw all of that inventory in the system, which is our shock absorber, literally just go away in a matter of weeks. And we’ve been playing catch-up to this extreme, 500% lift in demand pretty much ever since."
Brackett predicted that the holiday season will lead to a shortage of other products that are usually in high demand this time of year. Spice sales could boom with more people looking to cook at home. "The spice category has absolutely gone through the roof. So we believe that during this pandemic, there's been a totally different buying pattern and [a] generation that started to cook a lot more than they used to due to necessity," Beckett told GMA.
The new limits on products come as the U.S. continues to see a dangerous spike in the number of coronavirus cases this week. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted there will be between 260,000 and 282,000 coronavirus deaths by Dec. 5, reports CNN. The report came after the U.S. reported 1,893 deaths on Wednesday alone. Wednesday was also the ninth day in a row of at least 100,000 daily infections.