Panic buying forces stores to limit purchases

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As fears over COVID-19 grow people are buying up supplies leaving store shelves empty.

Some retailers that are having to take drastic action to limit the number of toilet paper rolls, face masks and hand sanitizer bottles each person can buy as customers stockpile goods over fears of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The epidemic has infected more than 97,000 people and killed 3,300 globally, leading to growing alarm that has resulted in mass bulk buying around the world.

In the United States, Kroger says it is capping individual purchases of “sanitization, cold and flu-related products,” while Home Depot is curbing the number of face masks in single orders placed online and in stores.

Supplies dwindle in North Alabama

Several stores throughout Madison county are running low on items like hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, masks amid the spread of COVID-19.

“People are going around all over town looking for the same things,” said Steve Hammer the pharmacy buyer for Star Super Markets

Hammer says hand sanitizer is the item Star Super Markets is having the hardest time getting their hands on.

“They tell you right off the bat, it’s on backorder. So it’s coming probably next month,” said Hammer.

There is a shortage because of the high demand. Since stores are out of hand sanitizer, people are making their own, causing rubbing alcohol and aloe vera to also sell quickly.

“The actual product itself is really just alcohol and aloe vera a lot of times. We do have a little bit of alcohol left but we’ve probably gone through oh I don’t know, four or five cases of that in the last few days,” said Hammer.

Hammer says they have needed to start selling masks and other items individually instead of by the box.

“Gloves are becoming a problem, masks, of course, are still a problem. We did get a few masks.. we’re selling those at five dollars a piece, while they last.”

A key item not sold out as of Friday, antibacterial soap. Health officials say the best thing to do to fight the virus is to frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

Stretched supply chains

Patrick Noone, managing director of Costco Australia, said his team has been scrambling to adjust to the sudden jump in demand over the last few days.

“We have seen an influx of people in warehouses across the country in the past week ‘stocking up,'” Noone said in a statement. “Our employees and suppliers are working tirelessly to try and keep up.”

While some retailers will enjoy an uptick in sales — Costco worldwide posted a roughly 3% bump last month that it attributed to higher demand from coronavirus concerns — some experts say it’s not necessarily a good thing.

“The fear of facing increasing supply shortages and prospects of disruptions to daily life have likely prompted people to stock up,” Bernard Aw, a principal economist at IHS Markit, told CNN Business.

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