The coronavirus pandemic has led to widespread runs on grocery stores as people stock up to stay home and isolated -- perhaps for weeks. In some parts of the country, worried shoppers have been picking store shelves bare, creating shortages of a host of items -- and not just toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Even Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has run out of many common items, a shock to consumers who have come to expect the e-commerce giant will almost always have what they need in stock.
What is Kroger's CEO saying?
The head of the nation's largest supermarket operator essentially described the current food shortages in many locations as strictly a logistics problem. The grocery chain has the items stores lack in its pipeline. It just has to get them to where they are needed.
"We asked President [Donald] Trump and Vice President [Mike] Pence to let people know there's plenty of food and plenty of things in the supply chain," McMullen told the newspaper. "And as long as customers just buy what they need and don't hoard, there will be no problems at all -- there's plenty of food in the supply chain."
Amazon executives have made similar comments, and shortages have already eased in some areas. But they remain acute for some items in others.
Demand will fall
It's not unreasonable for people to panic a bit when facing the unknown. Few Americans have lived through a situation anything like this one, and buying excessive supplies makes people feel like they are doing something smart for their family. But people can only cram so much ground beef in their freezers, and fears of shortages should ease as retailers and suppliers unwind the logistical backlogs and return supermarkets and e-commerce warehouses to something close to their usual well-stocked states. At that point, demand should slack off as people shift back from a "stockpiling" mentality to their normal restock-as-needed mindset.