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Stores rationing toilet paper, sanitizer, other essentials while restocking is underway
Local grocery stores hit with flood of demand as public worries about coronavirus
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Andy Holcomb waits in line at J& J Foods Friday, March 13, 2020, with his purchase of toilet paper, which has become more scarce on store shelves as the Coronavirus awareness has progressed. Holcomb had to make multiple stops in search of the paper before finding it available at J&J. - photo by Scott Rogers

The toilet paper is being restocked.

As people prepare to spend more time at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, many are going to stores to stock up on items such as toilet paper, canned goods and cleaning supplies.

Larry Shaw, manager at the Flowery Branch Target, said hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, rubbing alcohol, toilet paper, water and food staples like soup and canned vegetables have been in high demand.

“As the items are sold through the registers, we get a replenishment. We have a truck today, we have one on Saturday and Sunday, and next week, we’ll have one on Tuesday,” Shaw said Friday.

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A pallet of water sits in the aisle at J&J Foods Friday, March 13, 2020, as the Gainesville store sees a steady stream customers. - photo by Scott Rogers

The store is limiting customers to four items each for the high-demand products.

“It’s just with the pipeline or the supply chain, everybody is buying kind of in a panic buy,” Shaw said. “… It’s kind of like when we had the gas shortage back in 2008 and 2009, when everybody tried to buy gas at the same time on the same day. The system just can’t handle it.” 

Shaw said customers have been understanding about the shortages. As of Friday morning, the Flowery Branch Target had run out of toilet paper.

The store is ramping up disinfecting practices, he said.

“They’re going around constantly disinfecting anything the guests touch, as far as the registers, the restrooms, door handles, keypads, pin pads,” Shaw said. “Starbucks, we clean that every 30 minutes, and then we go throughout the store, call boxes that we have, anything that a guest can touch, any interactive display, electronics and toys, we’re constantly wiping those down.”

Emily Wiley, purchasing director at J&J Foods on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville, said toilet paper, frozen foods and cleaning products were also selling quickly at J&J.

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Shelves of toilet paper are nearly empty at J&J Foods Friday March 13, 2020, as customers stock up on water and toilet paper in addition to food products and other items. - photo by Scott Rogers

 “People are just buying more of their whole order. They’re just stocking up. They’re buying frozen pizzas. They’re buying things they can eat while the kids are going to be home this week,” Wiley said. “... We’re seeing people just buy huge buggies with pretty much everything from the store.”

The store is working with its supplier to keep shelves stocked, she said. J&J is doing extra cleaning around the store as well. 

Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said all stores are limiting customers to two of each of the following items: hand soaps and sanitizers, rubbing alcohol, facial masks and gloves, disinfectant wipes and sprays, facial tissues like Kleenex, cups, plates, utensils and bleach.

“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,” Brous said in an email. “We continue to make daily deliveries to our stores and are collaborating with our supplier community, industry groups and community partners.”