Why Are Toilet Paper and Groceries Sold Out?

I had wondered why many groceries and things like toilet paper were sold out. Intuitively, it didn’t make much sense. Yes, you might have a week were people stock up and buy excessive amounts. Yes, people will go to the supermarket less often and therefore buy more at once. But most people around me didn’t buy two months worth of supplies. Most assume that supply chains will remain mostly stable over the course of the next weeks and month. And still, a lot of things are indeed constantly sold out.

One part of the explanation may be quite obvious, but it didn’t occur to me before: people are now consuming much more things at home than before. They are therefore also consuming different things. If you cook and eat at home, you need too buy about twice as much food per day than when you go to restaurants our have lunch somewhere. If you go to the toilet at home instead of at work, you need more toilet paper. In addition to that, often toilet paper that you get at work has different shapes and sizes and comes in much larger bulks than home toilet paper. Walmart also announced that the demand for shirts has gone up during the crisis, but the demand for pants has gone down. When you are in your next Zoom meeting, think about what that could mean.

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