The number of coronavirus cases continues to skyrocket in the U.S., leading to consumers stocking up on many of the same goods they bought at the beginning of the pandemic, including toilet paper and cleaning supplies. On Tuesday, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said it was "disappointing" to see so many of these products already disappearing from store shelves. However, executives were more optimistic that the widespread shortages of toilet paper seen in March and April will not be repeated during the ongoing wave.
"We do see big differences, depending on the communities that you're in," Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner told analysts Tuesday after the retail giant reported its quarterly earnings, reports CNN. "The specific categories where we have the most strain at the present time would be bath tissue and cleaning supplies." McMillon added that it was "disappointing" to see "as many out-of-stocks as we have in consumables right now generally."
McMillon was confident consumers will not see the same shortages seen early on in the pandemic, when toilet paper and cleaning supplies seemed to be impossible to find. "I think we're going to be able to respond in this instance better than we did in the first half of the year, although we're still — as a total supply chain — still stressed in some places," he explained, reports Business Insider. "It's disappointing to watch our rationalities and see as many out of stocks as we had in consumables right now, generally, although it's a whole lot better than it was earlier in the year."
Walmart has not set nationwide limits on products yet, but the company told Business Insider that is an option for store managers. "We will continue to keep a close eye on product availability and work with our supply chain to help meet customer demand," the company said. "As is normal during periods of fluctuating demand, store managers have the discretion to implement item limits based on their specific store experience to help sustain product availability."
Many other grocery stores across the country have already started bringing back limits on paper towels, toilet paper, and other cleaning supplies as the pandemic continues into the holiday season. On Wednesday, the U.S. reached a grim milestone with 250,000 coronavirus-related deaths reported, according to the New York Times. On Tuesday, the COVID Tracking Project reported that 76,830 Americans were hospitalized with the virus. More than 11.6 million Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University data.