Coronavirus update: More COVID-19 cases confirmed across Australia as shoppers stock up on toilet paper, groceries

Press/Media: Expert Comment


#toiletpapergate explained

There has been a lot of information to process as the coronavirus situation continues to unfold around the world — so why are Aussies so focussed on toilet paper?

Supermarket shelves around the country have been stripped bare, with Woolies even putting a limit on how much customers can buy in one transaction.

Some people are even listing packets or single rolls for hundreds of dollars on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree.

Experts say there were two main reasons supermarkets are all running so low on toilet paper.

Firstly, the packets are big and bulky, so many supermarkets won't stockpile heaps of toilet paper on site.

"If just half a dozen or a dozen people buy extra packets, suddenly the demand lifts very quickly and it's hard to keep that stock on the shelf," QUT professor and retail expert Gary Mortimer says.

Secondly, there have been reports in other countries about toilet paper shortages (there's nothing to suggest that will happen in Australia).

"Consumers are watching what is happening around the world with the coronavirus, and we are taking psychological cues and signals from these other international markets," Macquarie University associate professor of marketing Jana Bowden says.

Dr Bowden says most of Australia's toilet paper is made in South Australia, so there probably wouldn't be an issue if people weren't hoarding it.

"From a supply perspective, it's completely irrational," she says.

"It is easy to go to the supermarket, see other people buying it, and feel like you have to have it. But just have the basic necessities. There's no need to stockpile."

Period4 Mar 2020

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