We consumers are a strange bunch. One minute we are buying in a predictable way, at the usual times and in the usual patterns. Then, boom! Suddenly the world changes seemingly overnight and consumers take drastic and unusual shopping actions.
In this case, what was once a stable item – toilet paper – became a hot product in high demand as the coronavirus hit the U.S. According to Nielsen, in the first week of social distancing guidelines, toilet paper demand increased 120% versus the same time last year. Customers began buying toilet paper in bulk and ratcheted up hoarding of the commodity product. This type of reaction is not uncommon during times of stress when consumers feel a need to control at least one aspect of their lives.
Why the shortage though? In part, it is because toilet paper manufacturing and distribution flows through an efficient, tightly-controlled supply chain. Since it is a bulky product to ship and shelve, retailers keep low inventory on-hand and depend on frequent shipments to replenish stock.
On average, the volume a household consumes toilet paper is about 141 rolls per year. But, during the current crisis, consumers are going through more toilet paper at home since more people are working at home and not venturing out to restaurants, retailers, and other out-of-home events.
Be kind. Share.
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Discuss the elements in the supply chain and marketing channel.
- Diagram the supply chain and marketing channel for toilet paper.
- Show a brief video about toilet paper supply chain: https://youtu.be/By2mmIUzG-w
- Another video choice: https://youtu.be/NiQKvfo3l94
- View Cottonelle’s Web site and it’s plea for kindness and sharing: https://www.cottonelle.com/en-us/share-a-square
- Where are the stress points in the supply chain and marketing channel?
- What can be done to better produce and manage products such as toilet paper during times of crisis?
Source: Ad Week; Associated Press; Nielsen Research; Wall Street Journal; other news sources