Fearing a supply chain break flashback, people have been rushing into the grocery shops to avoid suffering from shortages during the holiday season. Giant food retailers that have previously affirmed to have prepared in advance for another wave of panicked consumer activity, now say that demand has been so high their chains are inevitably stressed. In this video, we report the effects of the stockpiling trend that has been clearing shelves all across the country and turning everyday essentials into cherishable commodities.
All over the nation, people have been filling grocery carts to the brim in another round of panic buying boosted by the consequences of the latest surge in confirmed viral cases that led states to order the partial or total freeze of their economic activities. “Defensive purchasing” as some may define, is wiping everything out from the stores. Toilet paper, disinfectant, and groceries are flying off the shelves everywhere.
When state governors threatened to enforce strict measures to control the virus, people started stockpiling a wide range of products. However, what was a threat before, now became a reality. As more than 40 states registered daily increases in viral cases this month, several governors acted to restrict social gatherings and non-essential business activity, and while the orders were being put into effect, many reports about panic buying started to pop on the news.
A Seattle worker disclosed to The Daily Beast that “people are stockpiling now not just because they’re afraid of being stuck at home, but because they’ve seen everyone else buying it up and are afraid they won’t be able to get any when they need it later”. He’s right. That’s how any behavior drove by fear works. While some impulsively react to the threat of harder days, the panic spreads to the observant others. Alarmed and frightened, they shortly start to react in order to protect themselves as well. And this damaging loop will likely to continue to extend, as case rates keep increasing and restrictions are being confirmed pretty much everywhere.
Despite the efforts made by authorities and supply chain representatives to highlight that this second run is likely to be less severe because stores are more prepared, shoppers only believe in what they can see. Even though their attitude may cause the disruption they’re fearing, consumers another imminent wave of shortages could come regardless of their increasingly defensive tendencies.
When Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer started to report shortages in high-demand items, such as cleaning supplies, breakfast foods – and the most important commodity in any bathroom: toilet paper, warning signs were triggered amongst frightened customers.
Target also communicated it would enforce purchase limits if consumers resume hoarding behavior. According to Anna Nagurney, shortages are a possibility if the sanitary outbreak “adversely affect the labor supply chain. Plus, winter weather can bring additional supply chain disruptions in terms of transportation,” she added.
All in all, panic purchases are understandable considering consumers remember the frustrations of going from store to store in the early months of the health crisis, looking for essentials that suddenly become scarce. “And that pattern will only intensify as the number of virus cases increase and the holidays approach,” Nagurney said.
A LendingTree survey has found that 86.7 million U.S. consumers have already begun stockpiling supplies for a potential winter wave of viral cases, with an additional 35% that affirmed to have plans to stockpile but haven’t done so yet.
In contrast, the effects of those massive purchases are seen not only on store shelves but on consumers’ wallets – 27% of them have been accumulating credit card debt related to these purchasings, and most of them have been laid off or furloughed to the economic recession. Moreover, a recent analysis described how hoarding behavior might result in food waste.
Concerned about the dark winter ahead consumers might be unconsciously setting the stage for much more economic deterioration, as they spend more and increase their debt, rush into the unnecessary purchase of several products, which consequently creates a shortage, lead prices to skyrocket, while perpetuating a disruptive cycle of panic-driven purchases that don’t hurt anyone but themselves.
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