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4 Reasons Why Empty Store Shelves Are Everywhere

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With only a few days into 2022, the US is home to a flood of empty store shelves. Social media accounts are filling up with pictures of stores without enough items for sale.

Hard to find products include cream cheese, juice boxes, and cat food. Soon, toilet paper may rejoin the list of out-of-stock items.

RELATED: Americans May Face Empty Shelves

Four Reasons For Empty Store Shelves

A shopper in front of empty pasta shelves | empty store shelves

Some of the missing items remain an offshoot of the pandemic. However, new reasons also surfaced, which probably made matters worse for many American households.

Below are four of the major reasons why empty store shelves seem to appear everywhere in the US. As a result, that toilet paper we promised to never take for granted again might soon disappear again. 

Reason 1: Supply Chain Disruptions

This reason is as old as the pandemic itself. However, the supply chain snafu has now extended far beyond the problem of idle ships in the terminal waiting to unload their cargo.

Many manufacturing plants are now shutting down again and not delivering the goods they committed for 2022.

Many US imports from China, the United Kingdom, and other countries are now on hold pending the reopening of the plants that make them. 

Doug Baker, VP of industry relations for food industry organization FMI says that exporters are also dealing with disruptions.“A lot of our ingredients and products come from countries that have had their own spikes.

Some countries have taken a very strict approach and shut down manufacturing, so that slows the whole process down. It’s not just a domestic issue, it’s about how other countries are dealing with omicron,” he explained. 

However, while local fruits and vegetables are still in good supply, there are delays in getting to store shelves. The Food and Drug Administration is working overtime to prevent the spread of contaminated products. 

Reason 2: More Workers Are Getting Sick

For empty store shelves to fill up, stores will need workers to do the job. Especially during this time, stores need more workers not just to stock items, but also to perform deep cleaning in selling areas regularly.

However, the recent surge of COVID’s Omicron strain is making it difficult. Many workers are calling in sick or for quarantine. For example, Stew Leonard’s, an East Coast supermarket chain, reported that 200 out of its 2,500 workers are either sick or quarantined. 

In fact, Consumer Brands Association CEO Geoff Freeman reported that more Americans called in sick in the last two weeks compared to all of 2020. But wait, there’s more to the story.

Freeman said that on top of absent workers, the country also lacks 80,000 truck drivers to do the delivery rounds. Plus, another 10% of manufacturing plant workers are also in sickbay. “You’re putting a lot of pressure on the system all at one time,” he said. 

Reason 3: The Cold Winter Months

With winter conditions getting colder just after the new year, many parts of the country are a foot deep in snow. As a result, road weather conditions are less than ideal for driving heavy trucks.

Last week, a nearly day-long traffic jam delayed shipments for a number of grocery stores in the Virginia area. 

Baker noted that the winter months will always stay challenging. However, the past few seasons are showing that things are worsening. “We’ve seen weather patterns that we’re not used to in terms of frequency and magnitude, from the West Coast to the East Coast,” he said.

The winter weather also seems to influence shoppers, especially when they see nearly empty store shelves. Instead of buying one product, many shoppers begin buying two or more of the same item, which exacerbates the process. 

Reason 4: More People Are Eating At Home

While not as dramatic as the other three reasons, more and more Americans are staying home to eat meals. This means increased consumption of grocery items, which means more frequent trips to the store.

Not only are shoppers stocking up because of the Omicron surge. Many Americans are buying now in order to avoid anticipated price increases due to inflation.

The mad rush is now overwhelming stores and causing them to empty their stock well ahead of projections.  

According to MasterCard SpendingPulse, grocery sales went up by 8% last December. By this tie, stores are still in the process of restocking the items they sold last month.

However, the lack of supplies and problems with deliveries are slowing the process down. 

Watch the Inside Edition video reporting that grocery shelves are empty again due to the Omicron surge:

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