8 Items You Still Can’t Find in Stores (and Won’t for a While)
From empty shelves to sold-out carts, pandemic-era shortages are not yet behind us. Take a look at some of the out-of-stock items you won't see for a while.
For many, it’s difficult to think back to the state of the world in the early months of 2020. Seemingly overnight the pandemic caused a flurry of lockdowns orders, dangerous panic buying, and grocery store shortages that swept the country. As it stands now, things are both very different and startlingly the same.
Eased restrictions, enhanced safety and sanitation measures, and mask-wearing have allowed many facets of life to rev back up again. But not everything is back to full swing. One surefire sign that the pandemic is still looming over the country? No matter how many times you scour the shelves, you still can’t find your favorite items. From grocery stores to small-town suppliers to big box stores, there’s still a shortage of must-haves. We’ve rounded up some items you won’t be finding any time soon.
Nintendo Switch and gaming consoles
While representatives from Nintendo have said that some manufacturers are back up to pre-COVID-19 levels of production, American consumers beg to differ. In many retailers, both online and in-person, it’s still a mad dash at each new shipment to snag the precious gaming system that has skyrocketed in popularity over quarantine.
Scalpers, reselling bots, and other methods often buy up all the available units to resell to us desperate gamers at ridiculous markups.
Certain paper products
While we all remember the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 and the larger coronavirus shopping frenzy, some consumers are still not left with comfortable numbers. Thankfully, many shoppers no longer have to stockpile mountains of the stuff.
On the other hand, “if you live in a small town that’s very rural, then stores in your area may be receiving shipments less often than they used to,” according to Michael Bonebright, a Consumer Analyst with DealNews.com. “As much, you may still be experiencing shortages on grocery store essentials like toilet paper, surface disinfectants, and specialty foods (especially any foods that are shipped from abroad).” Therefore, rural shoppers might have to time their grocery store runs with shipments for a few months more as more regular shipments resume slowly. Also, shoppers might not have their favorite brand for quite some time, if ever again.
It seems like only a few short months ago we were all collectively undertaking the task of baking bread. Yeast and bread makers were flying off the shelves and Instagram was awash with bountiful loaves and pitiful fails. Nowadays, dry yeast is still in short supply, much like it is around the holiday season. While the bread-baking craze has largely died down, yeast is still hard to come by despite increased requests. Bakers beware!
Plastic containers and jars
Quarantine is/has been a great time to up your skincare game. Many have taken advantage of the opportunity to try out new cosmetics from the comfort of their home. The supply has grown with the demand and a number of new online retailers have joined the mix.
“There’s been a major uptick in the number of new, hobby beauty businesses created during the pandemic, and manufacturers have struggled to meet the demand of these product containers,” notes Tenin Terrell, owner of The Creative Suite. “Several customers received emails stating that some of the most popular jars and bottles wouldn’t be back in stock until November…containers that sold for 0.49 cents per piece pre-pandemic are now being sold for $1.00 per jar on Amazon. ” Speaking of pricey, take a peek at how much the coronavirus is costing the world thus far.
Laptops and other electronics
Laptops and other electronic devices (cellphones, tablets, computers, speakers, headphones, etc.) are, for the most part, manufactured outside of the United States in overseas factories. While shipping these products pre-pandemic was made as inexpensive and quick as possible, post-pandemic is another story.
“Overland shipping (via freight or semi) hasn’t been as adversely affected by the coronavirus as oversea shipping—products that are shipping from within the United States are not nearly as delayed as those shipping from other countries, like China,” says Bonebright. “So at the consumer level, you are very likely to see delays on electronics and other foreign-made goods.”
Pest control items
Strangely enough, one item that had a difficult time bouncing back are pest control products. These popular sprays, powders, and traps are still not returning to smaller store shelves. A report from the Wall Street Journal still has pest control items at only 66 percent stock levels when compared to pre-pandemic usage. While the warm summer months are usually heavy hitters when it comes to pest control (largely spur of the moment, when-you-need-them-you-need-them in-store purchases), consumers will be having a harder time locating these products on their local shelves. Consumers may have to turn to online shopping for their pest control needs. Some items will bounce back with time, but you won’t be seeing these items in grocery stores for the foreseeable future.
Homeschool curriculum books
“As parents learned that their learners would not be returning to the school building, or some families opted-out of public schooling entirely, these physical resources have become a hot commodity,” says Terrell. “Especially workbooks and teacher’s editions for grades 1st through 5th.”
When schools closed early in the spring, the fate of next year seemed far in the distance. School districts were left with little choice around online classes, in-person reopening, or hybrid models. Some parents decided instead to homeschool their children as a precaution or to offset learning loss via online methods. This resulted in books being snatched up early and in much higher quantities than during a usual school year. The unexpected uptick in demand left in-person and online retailers surprised and sold out. Also, you may not see these items in school long after the coronavirus pandemic is over.
Disinfectant wipes and sprays
The early 2020 run on these items didn’t come as a surprise to many consumers. Now, however, with supplies still low, many are left wondering why they are still so hard to come by. Clearly, disinfecting is more important than ever during a pandemic, and these supplies are vital components of any household arsenal.
CEO of Clorox, Benno Dorer, told Reuters that grocery stores would not be fully stocked with Clorox wipes until 2021. Although smaller manufacturers of similar products have tried to pick up the slack, the demand continues to soar past production capacity. This pattern is consistent with many products, likely not fully or consistently returning to shelves until next spring.
“Supply chains typically operate on time-phased plans,” according to Terrell. “This means that what is available to consumers this season was likely scheduled for production and distribution one or two seasons ago.”
What’s a consumer to do?
“I recommend that customers left without their favorite products join the retailer’s product waiting list. As soon as the item is back in stock, you’ll be notified,” notes Terrell. “Also, depending on the item, customers can also seek out like new or gently used versions of their delayed products on sites like Ebay, Mercari, or Facebook Marketplace.”
“In the vast majority of cases, we’re seeing shipping delays as opposed to shipping cancellations…Big companies with shipping networks in place are flourishing; smaller companies and manufacturers that are unaffiliated with those larger supply chains are the ones that are struggling,” reminds Michael Bonebright. “Shoppers—especially those in rural communities—may have to wait longer to get their favorite products, but those products are not necessarily going away. My advice: Be patient!”
- Tenin Terrel. Owner of The Creative Suite.
- Michael Bonebright. Consumer Analyst at DealNews.com.
- Reuters. Clorox Won’t Have Enough Disinfecting Wipes Until 2021
- The Wall Street Journal. Why Are Some Groceries Still So Hard to Find During Covid?