Shelter-In-Place Shopping: Beyond Toilet Paper: Retailers Are Having Trouble Keeping A Few Other Unexpected Items In Stock

By Nanette D. Massey  / challenger news photo

Since the start of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s shelter-in-place order to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease, it is becoming commonplace to walk through many retail stores to confront the sight of bare shelves. Toilet paper was the first thing to go, as people feared the possibility of an eventual full out order of confinement. Any item related to cleaning and disinfecting was also made hard to come by in the frenzy. Retailers are having trouble keeping a few unexpected items in stock too.

Consumer Affairs manager for Wegmans Buffalo, Michele Mehaffy, reports that one item the stores can’t seem to keep in stock is, surprisingly, yeast. “Anything that has to do with baking, whether it’s yeast, cake mixes, frosting or flour, people are grabbing those items from the shelves.” 

David Christopher, general manager at Tops Supermarket on Jefferson near E. Utica, reports something of the same predicament. Flour, sugar, yeast, vanilla extract, and vegetable oil all fly out the door. Christopher surmises that with so much time on their hands, people are experimenting a bit more in the kitchen. Cookies, brownies and the like also make engaging projects to do with kids who are home from school. Christopher is also seeing hot dogs, sausages, and some other traditionally grilled meats go with an unusual briskness.”I think people are sick of eating the same old thing and they’re looking for alternatives. They also want to take advantage of the break in the weather we’ve been experiencing, people just want to get out of the house.”

That idea bears out given the charcoal and mini-grills selling at the Family Dollar store just across the street from Tops. Aluminum cooking pans don’t stay in the store either. Deodorant is a hot seller, and anything that has to do with enjoying music; headphones, earbuds, speakers and DVD players.

Wegmans’ Mehaffy notes that “garbage bags are also in demand, but we’re not exactly sure why.” An April 9th CNN.com story backs up her assertion, reporting that waste management companies nationwide are indeed battling a startling uptick in volume for household trash. Republic Services, with garbage collecting accounts nationwide, projects seeing a 30% increase before the shelter-in-place orders are lifted.