First, it was disposable face masks. Then, it was hand sanitizer.
Soon, toilet paper, flour, and even some canned goods also disappeared from store shelves in Metro Vancouver.
Over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains and prompted panic among shoppers eager to avoid going without the essentials.
Here are some of the items that have made a comeback — and some that are still in short supply.
One of the first products to disappear from store shelves were disposable face masks. As early as February, they were in short supply. Garment-makers quickly filled that void as they shifted production to make reusable masks. Retailers say they're no longer experiencing shortages of this item.
Soon after face masks disappeared, hand sanitizer vanished as well. Smaller producers, including some distilleries, quickly rerouted or ramped up production. On the less positive side, Health Canada has recalled more than 50 hand sanitizers that contain ingredients "not acceptable for use" that may pose health risks.
Smaller producers were able to step in to produce more hand sanitizer, but not so as of yet for disinfectant wipes. Retailer London Drugs says disinfectant wipes are available but in limited supply because demand continues to be high for these products, and the store is still seeking new suppliers. Lysol, one of the main producers for disinfectant wipes, acknowledges it can be difficult to find some of its products. The company says its teams are "actively working around the clock to increase production and delivery" but demand "remains extraordinarily high."
Flour and yeast
As people hunkered down at the beginning of the pandemic, many turned to baking their favourite comfort foods. Flour and yeast quickly became hard to find, but flour producer Rogers Foods says those initial issues have worked themselves out. Company representative Joe Girdner says the spike in demand, combined with distribution bottlenecks, drove the initial problem. Now, Girdner says, most customers seem to be well stocked and demand has evened out. Girdner says Rogers is now ramping up for fall and Christmas baking season — as well as preparing for a potential second wave of COVID-19.
Empty aisles of toilet paper were a common sight in April, but supplies appear to have stabilized. Rebecca Leung, store manager at City Avenue Market on Commercial Drive, says demand is still high but customers don't seem to be stockpiling as much as they were a couple of months ago. Leung thinks people have been reassured enough to stop panic-buying essential supplies.
Bikes and cycling accessories
Early on during the pandemic, cycling sales soared as people sought outdoor activities and safe travel alternatives. Bike shops say their stocks are still low, especially for lower-priced, entry-level rides. Denman Bikes sales manager Julie Bischoff says "it's still an epic volume of bike sales" over at her shop. And with 2021 models not expected to come in until November or December, Bischoff says, finding a more affordable model in your size is likely to continue to be a challenge. Bike shops say even stock for some common bicycle parts is getting low.
Along the same lines, outdoor stores have seen more demand than ever as locals take to exploring their own backyard this summer because of the pandemic. Outdoor retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op says its tent stock is still low. MEC's director of merchandise, Brodie Wallace, says indoor climbing gear has also flown off the shelves as people found ways to train at home.
Boats and water sports
Nothing says social distancing like sitting in a boat miles from shore — a fact that appears to be reflected in the water sports industry. B.C. boat dealers continue to report record-breaking sales amid COVID-19 restrictions. Salim Ladha, co-owner of Steveston Marine and Hardware, says sales have been brisk but many manufacturers based in the U.S. have been closed because of the pandemic. Ladha says he's down to a quarter of the boats he normally has in stock. Over at Galleon Marine, owner Ian Binstead says he's got the same issue. And he doesn't expect new boats anytime soon. "When the inventory is gone, it's gone," Binstead said. It's not just boats that are in high demand. MEC's Wallace says sales of stand-up paddle boards and kayaks continue to soar.
Cat and dog lovers hoping to snuggle up with a furry new friend during the pandemic were faced with the reality of a short supply of animals. Demand soared but the number of rescued dogs making it across the border came to a halt. B.C. SPCA spokesperson Lori Chortyk says the same number of animals have been surrendered or rescued in B.C. during the pandemic, but demand continues to be high. Chortyk says, as usual, there are many more cats than dogs available because of the province's continued feline overpopulation issues.
Are there other items you're still having trouble finding? Mention it in the comments below.