USF expert: Toilet paper, other supplies should return to stores once coronavirus panic buying ends


FILE – In this Feb. 28, 2020 file photo, rows of hand sanitizer are seen empty at a Walgreens in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Fear of the coronavirus has led people to stock up on hand sanitizer, leaving store shelves empty and online retailers with sky-high prices set by those trying to profit on the rush. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, file)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – All across the Tampa Bay area and Florida, store shelves are empty of essential items for many families.

“You can’t buy toilet paper, paper towels, Clorox Bleach,” said Billy Villers, who was in line at a store before it opened on Thursday. “I decided I would like to get some toilet paper for my family and some disinfectant, so I wanted in line until 8 o’clock at the Publix here, got in there – and I was like the third one there – and there was nothing on the shelves when I got in there.”

To make matters worse, Villers says he witnessed some people taking advantage of a very difficult situation.

“I see a lot of people that are hoarding things. I was standing in line and they cut in front of me and they even cut in front of the elderly people,” said Villers.

Seckin Ozkul is an operations and supply chain management faculty member at the University of South Florida’s Monica Wooden Center for Supply Chain Management & Sustainability. He studies retail supply issues across the country.

Ozkul says the shortages we are seeing are a classic case of supply and demand.

“The demand, as we all know, spiked because of panic buying. So folks are buying more than they need, they are storing more than they need, but unfortunately, our supply is the same,” said Ozkul.

The USF Professor says it appears some people are buying up to a six-month supply of many essential items.

At some point, he believes even the panic buyers will see that they have enough.

“Our production capacity is there, it’s the same, it didn’t change. We are still supplying our regular demand. So if folks stopped doing the panic buying, we can actually go back to normal,” Ozkul said. “The way things are standing right now, I expect that mid-April to early May we are going to come to a saturation, stabilization point where all of the folks will have stocked up.”


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