Most Americans did not plan ahead for having to spend weeks, perhaps months stuck at home waiting for the COVID-19 pandemic to pass. That has caused people to flock to grocery stores, both in person and online, to stock up on items they view as essential.

The result is some short-term shortages on items people want and need. In most cases, these shortages are temporary, but have been exacerbated by some people hoarding supplies. To combat that, Walmart (WMT 0.26%) has decided to limit the quantities customers can buy of certain items.

The exterior of a Walmart.

Walmart has started limiting quantities customers can buy of certain items. Image source: Walmart.

What is Walmart doing?

The retail giant has been trying to keep its shelves stocked and its customers supplied. COO Dacona Smith laid out the chain's plan to limit sales on certain items in a blog post: 

We know communities are counting on us more than ever and we are determined to serve the broadest number of customers and ensure they have access to the key items they are looking for. Our stores will have limits for customers in certain categories including paper products, milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, diapers, wipes, formula, and baby food.

Doing this will give more people access to needed supplies. It should also limit how many trips people have to make to stores because they will get what they need instead of finding empty shelves.

This is the right move

People don't need hundreds of rolls of toilet paper, nor will they be able to use half a dozen bottles of hand sanitizer. Limiting purchase quantities will spread out supplies and keep more people safe. It will also curb the possibility of empty shelves -- a sight that might encourage people to hoard whatever is left.