Local retailers struggle with shortage of toilet paper and other essentials
A woman turned heads at Dicks Fresh Market in Osceola last Wednesday as she strode down the aisle with a package of white, round rolls of plushy looking fabric under her arm. Excitement dampened as she came more clearly into view and shoppers realized all she was holding was a few measly rolls of paper towels.
Grocery stores and other retailers all across the country are struggling with supply shortages of many essential items. Hand sanitizer, bleach, cleaning supplies and most notably toilet paper have all disappeared from shelves.
“We haven’t been able to put a finger on it,” said Tim Adams, the manager of Dicks Fresh Market. “I honestly don’t know why people focused on (toilet paper) so much.”
Whatever the reasoning, Adams is now scrambling to restock toilet paper, along with many other items he’s now without. He said panic buying of these items began as soon as news of COVID-19 hit Wisconsin.
“It started right away,” he said. “Within two or three days we were wiped out.”
That’s even after Adams got a special shipment of toilet paper in anticipation of people stocking up.
“Anticipating there being a problem, we got like 8 pallets of toilet tissue in,” he said. “And before that weekend it was gone.”
In addition to toilet paper and cleaning supplies, Adams said canned food also went fast.
“Canned vegetables, macaroni and cheese, noodles, soup and all that stuff,” he said.
As far as resupplying toilet paper in particular, Adams said his suppliers have not given him any specific timeframe. Not only are the retail locations out, but the wholesalers are also out.
“The pipeline is so empty that as soon as retailers get it, it’s gone,” he said. “And it could take a couple of months to fill this pipeline back up.”
Across the river in Marine on St. Croix, the Marine on St. Croix General Store is also struggling to keep items in stock. Manager Gwen Roden said she’s been selling single rolls of toilet paper since her supplier ran out.
“We’ve actually used a restaurant supply companies in order to receive the single rolls,” she said. “And that’s what we’ve got right now.”
Roden said outside of a few items, they’ve been able to keep everything in stock.
“We’ve been able to keep our shelves pretty full,” she said. “The only thing that we really have difficulty getting ahold of is rubbing alcohol, sanitizers of any kind, toilet paper and eggs.”
Since she’s unable to get them from her normal supplier, Roden used a restaurant supply company to purchase eggs as well. The eggs were delivered in bulk and Roden has had to crowd source egg cartons from customers to package the eggs for sale.
She said when her normal supplier does get shipments of needed items in, they generally go to large retail stores first, before being delivered to smaller businesses like the Marine General Store.
“The smaller the business, the less you get,” she said.
Even with supply shortages, Roden said the business is doing well for now.
“It’s almost like summer business,” she said. “It’s not crazy, but it’s steady.”
Roden said continuing to have steady business during this uncertain time has been incredibly helpful.
“I’d like to give a big thank you to everyone who comes in and shops,” she said. “It’s kept us alive.”