Friday, March 13, 2020
On Sunday and Saturday evening, Australian store chains Woolworths and Coles lowered their purchase restrictions on toilet paper to two and one package per transaction in all stores on national level, respectively. ALDI also introduced a one-pack limit, on Monday. These limitations were posted as messages on the checkouts, and on the chains’ Facebook pages. Buyers were reportedly stocking up due to fears of COVID-19 in case people need to self-isolate. On Wednesday, Woolworths also limited toilet paper purchases for home delivery to one pack per order.
These changes followed the previous four-pack per transaction restriction introduced by Woolworths and Coles on March 4 and 5 respectively. Coles, in its March 8 media release, reported that with the four-pack restriction in place, “many stores are still selling out within an hour of delivery”, and called the demand “unprecedented”, while ALDI, in a Facebook post on Tuesday, called it “unexpected”. Sales went up in a “sharp increase” last week, according to a Woolworths spokesperson. Costco’s store in Canberra also limited the allowed amount to two packs last week.
To further alleviate the shortage, Coles ordered bigger packages from suppliers and increased delivery frequency, Woolworths ordered extra stock, while ALDI made stocks for a planned Wednesday special available early. Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, said that retailers try to raise stock, but local council restrictions on the timing of truck-deliveries make it hard. He expects rising production costs, as suppliers try to meet demand, and fewer specials. On Tuesday, ALDI announced that following the early release of stock, some stores can’t run the Wednesday special.
In a News.com.au report, Dr Gary Mortimer, retail expert from Queensland University of Technology, said the stores fill the stock every night. He remarked toilet paper is a bulky item, leading to low quantity of stocks in numbers, and, when sold out, leaves vast shelf spaces empty, hardening the feeling of a shortage. “Coles and Woolworths have a view [that] if there was plenty of stuff on the shelf, if product like toilet rolls and sanitiser could be [bought] and are there in quantities, you would probably minimise the panic” said Russell Zimmerman per ABC News.
Recycled toilet paper producer Who Gives a Crap said on last Wednesday they’d run out of stock. Kimberly-Clark, which makes Kleenex Toilet Tissue, and Solaris Paper which makes Sorbent, emphasized they were working 24/7 to maintain the supply, according to the News.com.au report.
Domain.com, a real estate site, reported some property sellers offering free toilet paper to the first bidder on auctions in Melbourne, when fewer auctions were held because of buyers having time off on the long weekend of Labour Day. The Thursday edition of NT News, a daily printed in Darwin, included an eight-page insert meant to be cut up and used as toilet paper.
The stores were originally reluctant to impose restrictions, according to a report from ABC Australia on March 3 in which they said they had no plans to introduce restrictions on the purchases.
Russell Zimmerman added that other products are also in high demand, including masks, sanitiser, dried goods, handwash and flour. Similarly, outside of Australia, on Sunday evening online British supermarket Ocado was observed limiting purchases of Andres toilet paper to two 12-roll packs.