Costco said it will limit the number of certain items that customers can buy at one time. Store leaders said the move was necessary because of rising demand and shipping delays. The big-box chain will reinstate buying limits on toilet paper, bottled water, cleaning supplies, and others.
They’re similar in scale to the buying limits stores imposed last year at the beginning of the pandemic. But they’re for a different reason. In 2020, manufacturers didn’t have the product. But this time, they have the goods but getting them to stores is the problem.
Costco CFO Richard Galanti explained the situation Thursday evening on a conference call with analysts, the New York Post reported.
“A year ago there was a shortage of merchandise,” he said. “Now, [suppliers] have got plenty of merchandise but there’s two- or three-week delays on getting it delivered because there’s a limit on short-term changes to trucking and delivery needs of the suppliers, so it really is all over the board.”
“So planning is crucial … we’re putting some limitations on key items, like bath tissues, roll towels, Kirkland Signature water, high-demand cleaning-related SKUs related to the uptick in (COVID-19)-related demand,” he added.
Though Galanti did not say how many of each item customers can purchase at one time.
Costco also has availability issues with some furniture, as well as computers, tablets, and appliances because of a microchip shortage, USA Today said.
Costco, Other Retailers Facing Panic-Buying Again
For the past year, manufacturers of toilet paper and other household goods have tried to keep up with demand as best they can. They’ve monitored where stores are seeing shortages and have attempted to quell any fear by refilling shelves as soon as possible.
But COVID restrictions and economic frustrations are stretching supply chains thin, Bloomberg reports. Countries such as Vietnam that produce massive amounts of goods on American shelves are struggling to keep up with the demand. Adding to that burden is the rising cost of shipping and shortages of workers. Now, a recession looms in the distance, some economists worry that it could be the breaking point. Some stores, like Costco, are renting their own cargo ships to try and subvert any potential issues and sure up supplies.
People across America started stockpiling essentials such as toilet paper as the Delta variant infections spiked this summer. Which caused some stores to run out of items for short periods of time, USA Today reported last month. In the short term, companies were able to ramp up production or target specific areas. But that may not be a feasible solution in the future.
The rising cost of shipping and the lack of workers to unload the ships or drive the trucks to the stores are creating a shaky future, The Atlantic pointed out. And it’s causing a prisoners’ dilemma for consumers who have to trust that their fellow shoppers aren’t overbuying.
The short-term solution is simple: Don’t buy more than you need. Don’t overload your house with toilet paper and cleaning supplies and bottled water fearing that stores will run out. Because if too many people do this, they will.