Cleaning products and hand sanitizers will not be fully stocked at stores and online retailers for several more months supply chain experts have said.
As coronavirus became more widespread in the United States and social distancing measures got stricter brand name household cleaning products like Lysol and Clorox quickly sold out across the country and germ-killers such as Purell became reserved for frontline businesses.
America’s popular brands have not been able to keep up with the demand of panic buyers as most of the raw materials are obtained from China and stocks likely won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until July or August.
Those materials take about four weeks to ship.
This March 13, 2020, file photo shows a package of Lysol disinfectant wipes on a shelf at a store in Athens, Georgia. Big name brands won’t be fully stocked on shelves and online again until August supply chain experts believe
Empty shelves which normally contain Clorox and Lyson disinfecting wipes at a CVS in Arlington, Virginia on March 6, 2020. One expert said there’s a ‘pretty complicated supply chain, and so it’s very difficult to be able to ramp up and produce’
Obtaining the materials was made more difficult due to China coping with its own outbreak earlier this year. As well as a reduced workforce and factory closures due to COVID-19, the timeline was also slowed due to the Lunar New Year holidays.
‘You’re talking about a pretty complicated supply chain, and so it’s very difficult to be able to ramp up and produce,’ Patrick Penfield, a supply-chain-management professor at Syracuse University, told Business Insider as he predicted proper replenishment wouldn’t be for several months.
‘The other issue you have is capacity. So even if they were able to get the ingredients, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have the capacity to produce more products.’
Products like disposable cleaning wipes and alcoholic hand gels have been recommended and quick and easy ways to prevent the spread of the virus on contaminated surfaces or when it’s not possible to wash hands with soap and hot water.
It has caused a massive shortage in big-name chain stores as they tend not to buy from smaller suppliers in the US.
‘If you’re a Walgreens, you don’t want to buy from a distillery in Syracuse because that’s not going to be able to fill all these stores in San Diego or Fresno,’ Penfield added about hand sanitizers.
‘If you’re a Walgreens, you don’t want to buy from a distillery in Syracuse because that’s not going to be able to fill all these stores in San Diego or Fresno,’ Patrick Penfield, a supply-chain-management professor at Syracuse University, said about hand sanitizers. Two James Spirits employee Bob Owens applies labels to bottles of hand sanitizer being produced at the distillery on April 3, 2020, in Detroit
A woman inspects supplies of Lysol Spray and Clorox wipes at this Atlanta, Georgia Costco, quantities were limited to two per customer. An employee announced that they had run out of toilet paper and did not no when they would receive any more shipments of that item
Another expert has said it isn’t worth companies employing extra people to cope with the demand as it will eventually return to normal.
‘This is going to go away, and they’re going to go back to their regular demand,’ Seckin Ozkul, a University of South Florida faculty member who teaches operations and supply-chain management, said.
Factories also need to comply with social distancing guidelines so cannot operate over capacity.
Toilet paper was initially in high demand among panic buyers but more recently people have stopped rushing to stock up and the appeal to hoard has worn off.
However 90 percent of toilet paper is manufactured domestically.
‘Little by little we see Europe opening up, China getting back into production,’ Ozkul said.
‘I’m assuming that probably this is going to linger in May as well, but as you’re getting into summer, things are going to get better, and they are going to be able to get those raw materials and all their needs back up.’
Clorox and Lysol have said they’ve increased production but customers must check with their local stores about the availability as delivery days vary.
‘We have stepped up production of our disinfecting products in response to unprecedented demand. It’s hard to say exactly when specific retailers will have product in stock; it will vary from day to day, store to store and region to region,’ Clorox explains on its website.
‘We are working around the clock to make sure as many people as possible have access to our disinfecting products. We ask consumers to do their part by buying only what they need. In times like these we all have to work together.
After President Donald Trump brought up the possibility of ingesting disinfectant as a COVID-19 treatment at a recently coronavirus task force briefing, Clorox has also had to add a statement against it.
‘Bleach and other disinfectants are not suitable for consumption or injection under any circumstances,’ Clorox explains. ‘People should always read the label for proper usage instructions. Disinfecting surfaces with bleach and other disinfecting products is one of the ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
‘ Our products are safe when used properly. It’s critical that everyone understands the facts in order to keep themselves safe and healthy, which is why we continue to educate people about how to use disinfectants safely and effectively against COVID-19.’