Why isn’t hand sanitizer back on store shelves?

Stupid question… Why isn’t hand sanitizer back on store shelves?

I can understand how all of the product in stock as of a week ago got sold. But the production lines are still running. Do stores such as Target, Costco, and CVS have standing orders for hand sanitizer based on demand forecast? Or do they wait for supplies to run low and then zap an order automatically to the wholesalers?

Either way, it is tough for me to understand how hoarders, eBay and Amazon reseller profiteers, etc. could have bought up hand sanitizer that was still in production and/or still in transit. If there are standing orders, shouldn’t retailers now be restocked? Maybe they are, but 20 minutes after opening they’ve sold it all? How is that possible, given that they’re limiting to 2 per customer?

Plainly demand for this product is high, but a lot of businesses that would order it are now shut down. Health clubs, for example, theme parks, a lot of office buildings, etc. Shouldn’t the lack of re-orders from these folks balance out, to some extent, the panic buying from consumers?


16 thoughts on “Why isn’t hand sanitizer back on store shelves?

    • Most hand sanitizers are imported from China: the costs and the scale do not justify producing it elsewhere. I guess the Chinese government decided to curb exports as they may need all the sanitizer they can get., so higher wholesale prices in the US suddenly don’t matter to manufacturers.

      President Xi is evil because his allegiance is to the people of China and not that of the US. So next time, don’t vote for him.

    • M: Are you sure that’s right? Purell is made by GOJO, a U.S. company, and that’s the brand that most people know. A marketing company tracks all of the U.S. manufacturers: https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/hand-sanitizer-manufacturing-industry/

      It doesn’t make sense to import something like this that can be made in an automated factory, does it? We don’t get our shampoo from China, do we?

      (Checking this fact also turned up https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/prevention-cures/480245-fda-tells-purell-that-its-products-cant-treat-or which is funny; government regulators were fighting with Purell two months ago and now they’re begging them for more product)

    • PhilG:
      I read this somewhere (most likely on ZeroHedge) but I don’t have a link. The context was that shortages of the Purell sanitizers were expected to last for weeks on end precisely for that reason. Maybe the real issue was with packaging (as Fazal Majid noted below) but the article didn’t elaborate.
      Did I get it wrong? Quite possible. I did not fact-check.
      I am somewhat skeptical about your argument. Indeed, GOJO is a US company, but so is New Balance.

  1. I imagine demand far exceeds manufacturer’s ability to keep up. It’s something you might have bought once or twice a year. Or maybe never. But in the coronaverse everyone walking into a store will buy a bottle or two if they are available.

  2. I was just on phone with produce stocker at our local Giant. He explained what’s happening at our local Ahold-owned store. The warehouse got depleted by the unfortunate hoarding of everything, both fresh product and non-perishables/frozen. So even when they’re getting in a trailer from the main warehouse (Landover, MD in this particular case to service DMV and well as the Eastern Shore/Delmarva), sometimes it’s only 75% loaded. They are not doing what would be more expedient if you’re a trucker, i.e., taking all the product to the closer stores where it would sell through immediately. But rather, for which we on the coast are so grateful, they are trying to spread out the product. Maybe, finally, when folks realize they have enough toilet paper to last until July 4th, will the inventory catch up a bit. Shout-out to Louis, produce stocker in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. By the way, the out-of-stocks in our area didn’t start until circa Friday, March 13th as Delaware didn’t have any confirmed cases in this area until that weekend (initial cases a week prior were in Newark area, due to a professor who attended an academic conference in NJ, who spread it to graduate students, etc.). This is based on hearing from my kid in NY and from friends in the DMV who observed the hoarding & the out-of-stocks a good few days earlier. Americans aren’t known for restraint in grocery shopping — in comparison to their European brethren.

    • Oddly, shops in London, one of the least affected places in Europe, are completely bare, whereas Italy has seen little hoarding. So much for British cool-headedness.

  3. A more interesting question is what’s up with toilet paper? People are using a lot more hand sanitizer, but they’re using the same amount of toilet paper. Weird! That shortage should abate soon, as people’s basements get full.

    • It looks like toilet paper is getting better. On Friday I was at Costco in Seattle area, and it was full of unsold toilet paper.

  4. Us geezers are gearing up to re-live the diaper washing days. Wash cloths are the new toilet paper. But this requires bleach, another scarce commodity.

  5. I think it’s not so much shortage of sanitizer material (which is made of ethanol or isopropanol mixed with a little water, moisturizers and glycol to make it goopy, and both ethanol and isopropanol are industrial chemicals made on a massive scale) but of the plastic bottles to put them into. The people to pack the bottles into cartons and ship them may also be a gating factor.

    If they were more clever, they would just pack the stuff in bulk poly bags like hand soap and shampoo refills, and let people use their own bottles.

    • > If they were more clever, they would just pack the stuff in bulk poly bags like hand soap and shampoo refills, and let people use their own bottles.

      You wouldn’t believe what wonders of capitalism do. It’s called sanitizer refill…

  6. According to “Poorly Made in China: An Insider’s Account of the China Production Game” by Paul Midler the US does get lots of shampoo and those type of products from China.

    I’m not in the US, but we use Purell hand sanitising stations at work, and, a question came up about why they are not more. The person in charge of ordering these sorts of things said he started trying to order them in early February and was told that the earliest would be 6 months.

    So something in this is likely made in China.

    It would not be a surprise if the bottles are made in China.

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