Costco shoppers say some stores are out of toilet paper and water, as evidence mounts that consumers may stockpile items amid the spread of the Delta variant

Costco customers are reporting product shortages. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
  • Costco shoppers complained on Twitter that some of its stores are out of toilet paper and water.
  • The warehouse chain is also limiting the purchase of some products, several customers said.
  • There is some evidence that stockpiling could return as the Delta variant spreads.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Costco shoppers say some stores are out of toilet paper and water, as research indicates that US consumers are considering stocking up on essentials amid the spread of the Delta variant.

Dozens of Costco shoppers have complained on Twitter about product shortages and restrictions on the number of products they can buy. Grocery stores imposed restrictions early in the pandemic to stop people from panic buying and depleting stock.

“Did we not learn from last year at all? I pulled up to Costco and they are out of toilet paper and water. These people never learn,” one customer from Nevada said.

One customer from California said that these shortages could be a “sign of the times to come.”

Other customers pointed out that the warehouse club is placing limits on the number of packages of toilet paper that each person can buy, preventing people from stockpiling.

Insider reached out to Costco for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

There is some evidence that shoppers are thinking about stockpiling again as COVID-19 infections climb in the US. At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Costco stores were overrun with members bulk buying goods.

In tweets dating back to July, Costco customers said they planned to stockpile essentials such as toilet paper to prepare for the worst.

“I swung by Costco today to pick up toilet paper! I’m Ready for another lockdown,” one customer wrote on Twitter in July.

“Headed to Costco and I’m buying all the damn toilet paper,” another said.

A recent survey from analytics firm Inmar Intelligence, which was cited by Supermarket News, found that 69.4% of the 1,000 adults surveyed said they would consider replenishing current stockpiles of groceries and essentials as the Delta variant surges.

Read more: 
Costco keeps smashing sales expectations during COVID-19 despite being ‘stubborn’ on digital. Here’s why analysts approve of the big-box store’s slower approach.

Consumer stockpiling could become an even bigger issue for grocery stores now than earlier in the pandemic because retailers are grappling with ongoing supply chain and labor issues. The problems are leading to long delays and shortages, and forcing prices upward.

Because of this, grocery chains are also stockpiling goods to shield themselves from price increases, and protect margins.

“Our inventories are up significantly over the same period last year,” David Smith, CEO of Associated Wholesale Grocers – the US’ largest wholesaler – told The Wall Street Journal last month.

“We’re buying a lot of everything,” he said.