What I’m seeing in stores

I’ve spent the last several weeks at work either working hardly any hours, or working strictly in the receiving dept, so I haven’t been able to watch the sales floor the way I usually do. But I’m noticing things anyway.

Cement/concrete mix is still selling out as fast as we can get it into the store.

OSB has dropped back to something close to 2019 prices. My store has plenty in stock, but stores across the country are reporting shortages still.

Halloween decor hasn’t even hit the sales floor yet and people are already buying things to the point of driving them out of stock.

On the pesticides sides of things, Raid spray cans have been sold as larger cans marked “20% extra!!” for a few years new. This year? They just switched them all back to the smaller cans without those markings. For a higher price. Not sure if its a chemical shortage, a metal can shortage, or something else.

Cleaning chemicals are still wonky. We’ll get a case, or a batch of cases, of one product, and then not see it again for weeks and weeks. We have disinfecting wipes in all the major brands though.

So far no real issues with TP or paper towels, but I’m noticing a shortage of overstock too. We’ve been able to keep the shelves full, but we don’t have as much spare as we did.

At the grocery store things are getting interesting again. The last two weeks I ended up in two big grocery stores (one Wegmans, one Tops) and a little locally owned butcher/deli/store.

The deli meats sections were looking a little sparse at Wegmans, but I don’t normally get my lunch meats there so I didn’t stop and browse. The little local deli was looking decidedly empty, they carry almost exclusively Boars Head usually, but this time not only were they short on products, half of what they had were from different brands. They were busy, and the kids working the counter were already overwhelmed with people being pissy because they couldn’t get what they wanted, so I didn’t ask for details. When I stopped in at Tops I noticed that they were also looking short on deli meats, and they had a sign up stating “so sorry for the shortages on Boars Head products”. They didn’t have a line, so I asked the guy cutting my order if they’d had any input on what the supply chain issue was. He said they were being told it was a plastics issue (to wrap the products in to ship to the stores). He also said that there were several Land O’Lakes products that they’d not been able to get consistently for a few weeks too. I can believe there’s a plastics issue. I can also believe there’s an ingredient issue.

Wegmans and Tops have both shrunk their canola oil sections, and neither was full. Since I was shopping both on (separate) Friday afternoons if they COULD have filled them they would have been full then.

Ice cream, especially the individually wrapped “novelties”/servings ice creams, are looking remarkably short stocked and have for weeks at both big stores, and the little local place has also been showing signs of stock problems. I’d originally put it down to the hot weather driving sales, but the shortage has lingered way past the point where that’s a reasonable assumption. Grocery stores thrive on getting stuff like that on the shelves quickly when there’s a run, but gosh this is looking like a precursor to the empty sections of 2020 again. Could be plastics again, most of those products are individually wrapped in thin plastics of some kind.

Vitamins and the like never really recovered, last time I paid attention ALOT of the vitamin powders used come from overseas, especially Asia, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that supply chain never recovered right. Both Wegmans and Tops have recently rearranged their vitamins sections to look less empty, but if you know what you’re looking for they’re still short on alot of things.

Sanitary napkins and supplies are STILL short at both stores. Both have also shrunk and rearranged those sections, and they STILL look half empty.

A perfect example of the fucked supply chain

Fillmore Container is significant retail and bulk supplier of supplies for canning, candle making, and other such supplies for crafters. They specialise in glass jars of all kinds and the accessories needed to go with them for the above mentioned crafting and canning. As a canner I have found that there are often cheaper places to buy canning supplies, often locally, but Fillmore normally carries an awesome selection of products that’s worth keeping an eye on.

They just did a blog post on the company blog, detailing some of why they’ve had to keep prices high and why stock is still short.

Its all connected folks. And its not even close to fixed. Infact, it keeps getting worse. I’ll admit to a temptation to sit back and watch it all burn and enjoy my popcorn, but the reality is that I have to live here too. So STOP the fear-mongering over that damned virus, and figure out how to get it all working again. Or we’re ALL going to regret it.


Did I mention the supply chain is broken? Cause the supply chain is very broken. And what does that have to do with food that I’m bringing it up now?

Well, it means that after last year’s, ehem, “issues”, no one anywhere has any backstock of much of anything. Well, the warehouses and the suppliers don’t anyway.

So its not going to take much to throw portions of the food chain into disarray again.

So when I see reports like THIS. Or THIS. Not to mention THIS. And am reminded of THIS. On top of last years, ehem, “issues”, well, it might be time to make sure you’re keeping an extra bag or two of flour in the freezer. And maybe an extra box or two of pasta. Or bottle of oil.

whats going on in stores by me

This mornings OSB screenshot:

Also, concrete is going to be the next thing to spike in price. We can’t keep it in stock, and we’re not the only ones. Not sure if its a labor problem, a transportation problem, or a materials problem, but good luck getting it if you need it.

Insulation, and roofing, are short.

Hand powered garden tools, well, lets just say that that aisle is damn empty.

Peat Moss is completely unavailable.

For various reasons I ended up at 3 different grocery stores in the last two weeks. Flour is short across the board, they all had some in stock, but only enough to put one or two in each shelf space. Vinegar is short again. The vitamins shelves just keep getting emptier and emptier. Sugar was the emptiest I’ve seen those shelves since the original shut down. Cat food actually looked decently stocked, till you looked at the selection and realized that they’d just rearranged the shelves. Cat litter has NOT recovered yet.

Bird seed is damn near non-existent again, especially if you’re picky about the type of seed you want.

whats going on in stores by me

First up:

Took that screenshot off the HD website this morning. Hope you weren’t planning on building anything this year.

We’re selling lawn mowers faster than we can get them in, again. Walk behind or rider, doesn’t matter, chances are good we don’t have it in stock.

Powered and unpowered outdoor tools are in short supply, there’s holes in all the bays where we can’t get things, despite corporate throwing as many trucks as they could at us for the holiday weekend.

Patio furniture is D.O.N.E. We can get in TWO sets, and some odds and ends, and that’s it. And when I check online to look at other sets everything is out of stock.

Already seeing shortages in garden hoses and hose supplies.

Pool chemicals are almost non-existent. We got in a pallet of liquid chlorine on Friday, and by 4pm Saturday it was half gone.

SO FAR outdoor patio and wall block seems to be ok, but that season has barely started too, so we’ll see.

I will say, I saw my first case of 409 Multi-surface cleaner this week, haven’t seen that in over a year. Looking closer at the packaging I realized 409 is owned by Clorox, which explains why it wasn’t been a high priority thing this past year.

We still can’t get in toilet bowl cleaners on any sort of regular basis, and neither can either of the grocery stores I regularly shop at.

Paper products appear to have mostly recovered. There’s still random stuff missing, but you’ll only notice if you’re looking for that specialty thing.

Cat food is still quite short, as is some lines of kitty litter all the sudden.

The grocery store had whole wheat flour for the first time, I don’t know, months?, a year? this week. It was store brand, but they had it.

Sugar prices are through the roof, and its suddenly cheaper to buy some random brand of sugar I’ve never heard of instead of the store brand.

Bread yeast is in stock, but only in either packets, or as jars of “bread machine” yeast.

There’ve been no overt holes on the shelves, but if you’re looking for an odd list of specialty products, or specific products in specific sizes they’re often still not there.

Fancy Feast Canned Cat Food Shortage

I mentioned it before, that it was becoming hard to find on the shelves. I still can’t find any sort of official press release, or even news article on it. However after finding the Purina Fancy Feast FB page I found the following posts (screenshots so that folks without FB can see them).

And many many more comments like this.

I was able to order in a selection of mixed cases via Chewy, but the selection even of those was limited. If you have a cat who only eats these products you’re going to want to be prepared to order in bulk cases, or even have to find something else they’ll eat.

What I’m seeing in stores

Observations from the last few weeks, both at work and while shopping.

The grocery stores are well stocked on flour, well, untill you look closer. Lots of bread flour, all purpose flour, and bleached white. Some speciality flours (I actually found rye at my local grocery for the first time EVER), but NO whole wheat in any brand.

Is there a shortage of canned cat foods? Specifically Fancy Feast, which I’ve now seen to be short at several different stores, including one pet store, but also related sized cans in at least a couple brands (for all I know they’re all made by the same factories, I’ve been to lazy to check). Also, kitty litter seems to be short, it sold out when the original shut down happened, but recovered quickly. Now suddenly its short again.

Feminine sanitary products shortages. IE: tampons, pads etc. The grocery store I shop at the most, the one in the larger city near my work, has had less than full shelves since this all started back in March, but about Oct-ish I noticed the shelves were decidedly empty looking, and Nov-ish I noticed they cut the available shelf space in half. Now even that shelf space is looking pretty damn empty. I forgot to check at my local to home grocery last time I was in there.

Cleaning supplies are still fucked. Shelves only look full because of creative stocking and random brand availability, if you actually look close there’s ALOT of products still missing. Though I actually saw multi-surface 409 at work a couple weeks ago, it was one case, but it was the first I’ve seen since this started. In addition brands that we were able to get all summer are suddenly not available at all. Specific examples include Spray Nine and Greased Lightening. And I won’t discuss toilet bowl cleaners in any brand, lets just say that if you see it you’d better grab a bottle, cause god only knows when you’ll see it again.

Paper goods do seem to be recovering, though they’re still not back to normal levels.

General update on the state of things

What I’m seeing here in Upstate NY.

Meat prices leveled off, and now appear to have dropped back down to something close to where they were before the shutdown.  However there are still supply shortages.  I can get eye of round via my wholesaler again, and the price is back down to normal, BUT, they’re only able to get about half of what they normally get for stock of it, and they’ve had to cut their overall available products list by more than half.  Products just aren’t available.   ON the other hand the sales person I talked to says they’re still running flat out selling what they can get.  People are still stocking up.

Paper goods, toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, and the like, are still not back to normal.  They’re doing way better, but they’re not where they were before the shut down.  People are still panic buying, if not quite at the same level.

Cleaning supplies are still fucked.  If the shelves appear to be full its because the store has “spread to fill” what they have for product.  Home Depot actually issued “spread to fill” orders, take what you have, whatever the product IS, and make the shelves look full, because we don’t know when we’re going to be able to get the normal products, and maybe if we make the shelves look full people will stop panic buying.  Its kinda helping, but the people who’re looking for specific cleaners are still walking away frustrated.  In addition HD has brought in all sorts of cleaners that they don’t normally carry in an attempt to provide SOMETHING to the customers who’re looking for products.  Not just disinfectants, but whatever they can get.

Garden hoses and sprinklers are still in short supply, though that aisle looks better than it did.

Pressure treated lumber might have managed to recover, mostly anyway, but whats in the stores is still wet and green tinted as hell, its that fresh from the factory.

Appliances are still fucked, and they’ve no clue when they’ll be able to get caught back up.  If you’re in a position where you NEED an appliance, be aware that its most likely going to take months to get the models you want.

Cabinets are just as behind as appliances.  Hope you weren’t planning on redoing your kitchen any time soon.

Power tools are running short, shelving is running short, doors and windows are running short (though only in some lines).  Paint is behind or ahead depending on what exactly you’re looking for.  Pesticides are short, weed killers are short.  Generators are short.  We’re already sold out of a fair bit of the Halloween stuff and it was only put on the floor less than 2 weeks ago.

I’d previously thought that the slowdown in buying was because people were running out of money and going back to work as things opened up.  And certainly some of it was from that.  And some of it was because other stores were opening up and people had other places to spend their money.  But a large portion of it was because we started to run out of things to sell.

I’ve had a chance to talk to several vendor reps at work, as well as a variety of truck delivery drivers.  Everyone says the same thing.  The warehouses are empty, they echo, and there’s NO backstock to be had.  Home Depot, Lowes, and all the other stores that stayed open through the shutdown, sold through a year or more’s worth of backstock of just about everything in the space of 4 months.  Add in the manufacturing, and transportation, shutdowns and slow downs, add in the issues getting ANY supplies from overseas, add in that people bought out products that they’d never have even CONSIDERED buying a year ago, add in that people haven’t stopped buying those things since the shutdown hit.  The manufacturers are running flat out trying to catch back up.  If they have the people, and the supplies, their line is running 24/7, and every single item that comes off the line is going right onto a truck and sent directly to a store.  Where its promptly bought by someone and the process is repeated.  All the vendor reps I’ve talked to stated that their company has reduced their product lines to the minimum base products and converted the other manufacturing lines over to those base products, and they still can’t get caught up on those items.  The vendors who are exclusively outdoor products, hardscapes and gardening supplies and the like, have hope that once snow starts flying they’ll be able to catch up because people will PROBABLY stop buying their products.  The rest of them are just hoping that people will run out of money before the guys running the manufacturing lines drop dead from exhaustion (ok, no one’s specifically said that, and yes, they’re all delighted at the money thats coming in, but good lord people, can you please stop buying long enough for everyone to catch up??!!).

While it’s certainly possible that some manufacturer somewhere has decided to slow things down deliberately to make things look even shorter than they are, I really don’t think its the problem.  Honestly, based on what I’m seeing, most of these products, they could double the retail price of the items, and people would still snatch them off the shelves as fast as possible.   None of them WANTS their normal customers to stop buying the original choice items because they got used to something different.  The supply chain is just that fucked.  And its going to be months before things settle down.  Possibly quite a few months, as in, next year, if people continue to buy at the same rate.  Even longer if the .GOV tries to force another shutdown.  Longer again if any of the international suppliers of parts or chemicals has to shut down again.


Life update

Garden is in, and I got my first two cucumbers out of it yesterday.  Husband is still working from home, and was just informed that he’s going to be working from home through at least September.  This is one of those summers where I’m very glad for the watering system I have in place for the garden.  Dry doesn’t say it enough!  The old pool is down completely, and gravel is in the hole.  I did my math wrong and didn’t get enough to fill the hole, so now we’re deciding between more gravel, or a layer of pavers.

In the wider scheme of things:

Meat prices MIGHT have stabilized, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

My work has started receiving deliveries of pressure treated lumber again, enough that the aisle isn’t COMPLETELY empty, but its still not enough to stem the demand.  Cleaning products are still in very short supply.  Walk behind lawnmowers are in short supply except for a few specific models.  Pesticides are coming up short in several areas, notably wasp/hornet sprays.  Tomato cages are still a hot commodity, chicken wire is hard to get.  Landscape edging is hard to get.  Weed barrier is still non-existent.  Patio furniture is selling out faster than I’ve ever seen before, and we still can’t keep firepits in stock.  We’re short on several garden soils as well.  Bird feeders, wild bird feed, shepherds hooks to hang them on, are all in short supply or gone completely.  Hose reels and hoses are also hard to find.  We’re out of buckets.  Yes, buckets.

One question that I keep getting over and over again is why are we out of so much?  In a bit of irony its almost always the person with double masks and gloves who’s asking.

Look people.  We just shut down huge swathes of manufacturing for 2-3 months.  The few who were able to stay open had to reduce capacity in order to space their employees out, or to deal with people calling out sick.  So, the factory that makes that walk behind lawn mower had to shut down for 2 months.  The factory(s) that make the parts to make the lawnmower had to shut down for 2 months.  The factory(s) that process the raw materials to make the parts for the lawnmower had to shut down for 2 months.  So, now the lawnmower factory is waiting on parts, the parts factory is waiting on raw materials.  And they’re all running at reduced capacity due to the need to space people out further.  Repeat the same steps with the warehouses.  PLUS there’s transport issues.  Trucking/transport companies had to also deal with employee call outs, and issues like the states shutting off rest areas.  AND that assumes everything is coming from the USA.  Do I  need to explain the  issues with stuff coming from overseas??  I sure hope not.  Not to mention what this does to all those jobs involved.

Look, its going to take MONTHS for things to catch back up.  I don’t really care if you think the shutdown was the right thing to do or not.  We just screwed the HELL out of our economy.  And since we’re pretty much guaranteed to have another virus spike come fall when flu season comes around I have some serious doubts as to whether it was worth it.  And god protect us all if the .GOV decides to try to shut us all down again then, cause if you think the unrest now is bad, its going to be SO MUCH worse if they try to do it again.

Edited to add: no sooner do I post this than I see this post over at Borepatch.

The largest specialty bike shop in town, one that has been open for over 50 years, is closing next week. They sold every bike in the store and had been told it might be months before any could be delivered. They couldn’t get replacement parts, either. Selling tires and tubes and fixing flats is the bread and butter of any bike shop.

Click through and look at his picture.  Yup, this is gonna suck.

Picture from my work

That’s the front half of the main lumber aisle. Our pressure treated lumber delivery is over 2 weeks late. We’ve got some 6×6 posts left, and some of the 12″ wide pressure treated lumber, which is located in the back half which I didn’t photograph, and some random odds and ends. But thats all thats left for pressure treated lumber. Were mostly ok on the non-pressure treated lumber, though there’s some gaps showing there too. Its not just Home Depot either, the local Lowes looks just the same, as do the smaller local places.

The cleaning supplies aisle is just as empty. We have managed to get in a SMALL selection of seed starting stuff, mostly because people are done with seed starting. We’re out of weed barrier, and weed barrier staples. Tomato cages have become a precious commodity. Garden/food seedlings are impossible to keep in stock. We have no fire pits left, and patio furniture is down to the dregs (and most of both of those aren’t available online to order either). Lawn mowers, both walk behind and riding, are gone except for a couple random models of walk behinds. Our paint delivery this past Monday was 17 pallets of paint.

Crowds have slowed down just a bit this week, but only in comparison to the last 2+ months. In comparison to normal weekday crowds for a normal June our parking lot still looks like we’re holding a Black Friday sale.