Why We’re Hoarding Toilet Paper
Ever since Western consumerism collided with the COVID-19 virus, toilet paper and hand sanitizer has flown off the shelves. British market research firm Kantar sees a 255% year-on-year increase in hand sanitizer sales, and Adobe Analytics is logging a 1,400% increase in online demand. There are four-figure rolls of toilet paper selling on eBay and bog-roll related punch-ups in Walmart.
It’s panic buying. We buy not because we expect to get through a year’s worth of toilet paper in one winter, but because we have an emotional state to satisfy. “It’s about taking back control in a world where you feel out of control,” explains consumer psychologist Paul Marsden. Now’s the time to validate yourself as a “smart shopper. You do what others are doing. People see photos of empty shelves, and it sends a signal that it’s the thing to do.”
Vendors are now rationing supplies. Boots, the British subsidiary of Walgreens, says shoppers are only allowed two hand sanitizers each. Big grocer, Tesco, along with a few unlisted peers, is limiting wipes, hand soap, and even pasta to five per person. The big money for investors may be in these brands.
However, governments are keen to protect society from opportune pricing power. The French government just issued a new decree to stop hand gel prices soaring 8,000% online. The Italian police raided Amazon’s offices after twenty-cent masks were hiked to over two euros a piece, and the Taiwanese Coast Guard just captured a fishing boat smuggling 70,000 of these masks overseas. If the next big news is of the temporary nationalization of these industries, related retail stocks will tumble. Is that on the cards?