- There is likely to be a huge surplus of toilet paper soon when consumers stop panic-buying, a supply-chain expert said.
- The product was one of the first to fly off shelves around the world when the coronavirus outbreak began spreading beyond China.
- Toilet-paper manufacturers have ramped up production to meet the unprecedented demand, but they may be left with a huge supply once customers realise they have months’ worth of product stockpiled.
- Patrick Penfield, a supply-chain management professor at Syracuse University, told Business Insider the glut “will happen – it’s just a question of when.”
- The fear of a glut is one of the reasons many factories have been merely operating at capacity, rather than going above capacity to meet unprecedented demand, another supply-chain expert told Business Insider.
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Toilet paper has been slowly creeping back onto store shelves across the US, but it will most likely experience a major glut once consumers stop panic buying and stockpiling, a supply-chain expert said.
Patrick Penfield, a professor of supply-chain management at Syracuse University, told Business Insider a large surplus of toilet paper was “absolutely going to happen,” possibly in summer should demand drop and supply chains stabilise.
“That will happen – it’s just a question of when,” Penfield said. “If you’re a toilet-paper manufacturer, you’re going to start seeing that. You’re going to be like, ‘Oh, we don’t need to produce any more because the shelves are stocked and nobody’s buying them.'”
Toilet paper was one of the first products to undergo massive shortages as the coronavirus spread across the world, panicking shoppers.
Manufacturers have ramped up production to meet the surge in demand, but Penfield said in the coming months that demand would subside and they’d be left with huge quantities of surplus product.
Cleaning products, other hot commodities that have been flying off the shelves across the country, could see similar, temporary surpluses that could give way to another wave of panic buying in the coming months, Penfield said.
“Toilet paper will be out of the woods – the Lysol wipes, no, I think that’s going to happen again,” he said.
Demand for toilet paper is typically flat, but cleaning products see more cyclical demand as cold and flu seasons approach. Experts are also predicting a second coronavirus wave in the fall or winter, which would most likely prompt consumers to once again stockpile household cleaning supplies.
But another supply-chain expert, Seckin Ozkul of the University of South Florida, told Business Insider that companies had most likely anticipated these scenarios and managed their production accordingly.
The fear of a glut is one of the reasons many factories have been merely operating at capacity, rather than going above capacity to meet unprecedented demand, Ozkul said.
“Nobody’s going to go open up a new facility, buy new machines, because that is number one, too costly, and there’s no way to get that back when this demand goes away,” he said.
He continued: “Towards the end of April, by mid-May, we should be seeing some of this panic buying diminishing and people realising, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got like six months’ worth of toilet paper and now I can’t return these, so I’m going to have to stop buying.'”