It’s happening again. With the rise of the delta coronavirus variant and worries about renewed lockdowns, Americans are hunkering down and coping with the problem the best way they know: by buying toilet paper.
According to Thinknum data, toilet paper prices at Walgreens stores have shown sustained, marked increases over the past month. The average price for a package of bath tissue now stands at a little over $11, about $1.50 more than what it was in July. The rate of increase has also been picking up since mid-August.
For simplicity’s sake, we focused on product pricing data from Walgreens Boots Alliance, the second-largest drug store chain in the U.S. after CVS, and a leading seller of health, beauty and hygiene products.
In the U.S., toilet paper hoarding was one of the most shocking and pronounced consumer reactions to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic back in March 2020. For months, grocery and drug store shelves were perpetually stripped of TP, while it was being scalped for starkly higher prices on websites such as Amazon, and desperate shoppers were left hunting for alternatives. Hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial cleaning wipes followed a similar trend.
While toilet paper eventually became plentiful again, the easing of the pandemic earlier this year threw the economy into hyperdrive, causing demand to outstrip supply for everything from lumber for building houses to aluminum for soda cans. Prices for many household products also shot up once more.
Further contributing to the situation — and proving that old habits die hard — the swift spread of the highly-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus has apparently put some people into panic mode. Roughly twice as infectious as the initial virus, delta is now the dominant strain in the U.S. and contributing to a sudden influx of cases, hospitalizations and deaths throughout the country, particularly among unvaccinated people, according to the CDC. Many intensive care units in the Southern United States are more than 95% filled, mostly with COVID patients, according to the New York Times. Idaho has also started to ration care as it grapples with a resource crisis.
All this grim news apparently caused us to load up on bath tissue. Last month, retailers reported struggling to keep the product in stock, and Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest manufacturer of toilet paper and paper towels, told the Wall Street Journal that it was ramping up production once again.
Although the sudden bounce in demand undoubtedly contributed to rising prices, manufacturers have also been dealing with higher costs for pulp over the past year. Indeed, Thinknum data shows that prices for all tissue products at Walgreens, including facial tissue and tissue paper for gift wrap, have been elevated for the past month or so.
For comparison’s sake, not EVERY product category has been subject to the same pressures in recent weeks. The average price for products described as “soap,” for instance, has actually gone down.