Call it a run on toilet paper.

Many grocery stores across the Richmond region were sold out of toilet paper as of Friday afternoon.

Toilet paper joined the list of items such as hand sanitizers, soap and other cleaning products that were gone from many store shelves.

Even meat and poultry, breads and canned goods were in limited supply or sold out at some area supermarkets.

Consumers, concerned about the spread of the coronavirus or fear of being quarantined, scrambled this week - particularly on Thursday and Friday - to stock up on supplies.

Several grocery stores were so slammed on Thursday and early Friday with shoppers that it looked like they were preparing for one of Richmond's infamous big snow storms.

"Even on snow days, there's toilet paper," said Ashley Carrington, who was amazed yet disappointed to find no toilet paper on the shelves at the Walmart store on Forest Avenue in Henrico County. "Even when it downpours snow and schools close, you still have toilet paper."

She was off on a mission to other stores to find toilet paper.

"This is absolutely crazy," one Kroger shopper said as she stood looking at empty shelves on the toilet paper and paper towel aisle.

Shoppers at two other grocery stores facing the same unusual predicament stood in the toilet paper and paper towel aisles and snapped photos with their smartphones.

One woman at a Publix store kept asking other shoppers walking by if any toilet paper is made in the United States. "Why are all stores out of toilet paper?" she kept saying in frustration.

Paper towels also were gone at some stores. 

"We are helping our communities prepare by replenishing the stock of essential products such as Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer, bleach, water, canned goods and paper products," a Publix spokeswoman said. "We continue to make daily deliveries to our stores and are collaborating with our supplier community, industry groups and community partners."

Meat, chicken and pork also were in short supply at many stores.

Wegmans was mostly out of its usually large selection of meats and chicken on Thursday night and Friday morning at its locations off West Broad Street in western Henrico County and off Midlothian Turnpike in Chesterfield County.

The Publix store at The Village shopping center at Three Chopt Road and Patterson Avenue had some poultry items and steaks but was out of ground beef early Friday afternoon.

A very limited supply of eggs was available at the Walmart on Forest Avenue. That store and other supermarkets had limited or no supply of pasta and spaghetti sauce.

On Thursday, a couple of employees at the Trader Joe's in the Short Pump Station shopping center along West Broad Street talked about checkout lines for customers stretching to the back of the store for much of the day. One remarked that it was worse than a typical busy Saturday or Sunday.

By Thursday night, much of the produce, meats and frozen food items were out of stock, but Trader Joe's employees were restocking some of the frozen food.

“We continue to monitor the development of the coronavirus situation globally and are closely following official recommendations while working with our suppliers to understand and mitigate any supply chain disruptions. Providing customers with the products they want and need remains our focus,” Walmart said in a statement.

Customers in record numbers are stocking up on paper products, cleaning supplies and a variety of shelf-stable food items, retailers said.

"As demand for these items continues to grow and supply remains limited, we’re working with our current suppliers and pursuing additional sources to replenish our supply," Wegmans said in a statement. "We’re also seeing an increase in our e-commerce business and expect that demand will continue to grow."

Because of the increase in demand for certain products, many retailers are limiting how many of each item customers can purchase to help ensure their availability for others.

At Publix stores since March 6, for instance, customers can buy only two individual items of hand soaps, sanitizers, rubbing alcohol, disinfectant wipes and sprays, facial tissue and bleach.

Wegmans has put a limit of four each per order of purified, distilled and spring water and limits of three per order for hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. Customers are limited to two per order of Clorox and Lysol disinfecting wipes.

Despite the limits, several customers at stores on Friday were disappointed to find store shelves empty for most of those items.

(1) comment

THOMAS FAIRCLOTH

I guess we have to change the old adage from Hot Cakes to Toilet Paper.[crying]

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