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A Broken Supply Chain Means These 11 Products Could Be Out of Stock Soon

Gabrielle Olya

Many of the products people use in the U.S. are manufactured abroad, so the coronavirus-related factory shutdowns in China, India and elsewhere could have ripple effects on the availability of these items here soon — if they haven’t already. Even some products that are manufactured domestically are in short supply as manufacturing facilities struggle to keep up with unexpectedly high demands. Amid these supply chain issues, empty store shelves and out-of-stock items on major retailers’ websites have become the new normal.

Find out the products most at risk of going out of stock, plus the products that have already been affected.

Last updated: May 1, 2020

Laptops

Laptop exports from China to the U.S. have decreased dramatically. Even as China’s manufacturers have begun to reopen, factories in India, the United States and Europe are now starting to shut down or are running at partial capacity, The New York Times reported. This could lead to a shortage of laptops.

Medical Supplies

Other countries might clamp down on the export of medical supplies, which could lead to shortages in the U.S., The New York Times reported. Europe, India and Turkey have already put export restrictions on medical supplies needed to fight the coronavirus, including respirators, gloves and surgical masks.

Pharmaceutical Products

India provides 40% of the American generic drug supply, as well as numerous pharmaceutical ingredients that are needed to make medicines. Health experts, including Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that stay-at-home orders in India could disrupt the supply of pharmaceutical products to the United States, The New York Times reported.

iPhones

In March, Apple told its store employees that there could be a shortage of replacement iPhones, Bloomberg reported. The shortage could be attributed to the company’s supply chain, which is largely based in China.

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Toilet Paper

A combination of customer hoarding and disrupted supply chains could lead to a toilet paper shortage, The New York Times reported. Toilet paper producers that normally shipped to restaurants and schools are now having to figure out how to reconfigure supply chains to meet household demand.

LCD Televisions

China makes about half of the world’s LCD panels for TVs, laptops and computer monitors, Quartz reported. Five LCD factories are located in Wuhan, China, the city at the center of the coronavirus epidemic; operations were disrupted as the entire city was placed under quarantine.

Garlic

About a third of the United States’ garlic supply is imported, and the majority of the imported garlic comes from China, Global Trade magazine reported. Because of this, the coronavirus outbreak could foreseeably lead to a garlic shortage, according to the magazine.

Vapes

China is also a leading manufacturer of vaping hardware, which could lead to a U.S. vape shortage, Vice reported. About 90% of the world’s vaping and e-cigarette hardware is produced in Shenzhen, China, and factory shutdowns could lead to major supply chain delays.

Toys

Many toys are manufactured in China, so the interruption in supply chains could disrupt the production of toys. Toy Association CEO Steve Pasierb told Fox Business that supply chain disruptions wouldn’t affect the toy stock for the spring, but could lead to a shortage during the summer going into the holiday season.

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Diet Soda

In late February, Coca-Cola Co. announced that it was experiencing production issues with Diet Coke and other low-calorie drinks because its supply chain for an artificial sweetener and “certain other ingredients” sourced in China had been disrupted as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Today reported.

“We have initiated contingency supply plans and do not foresee a short-term impact due to these delays,” the company said at the time. “However, we may see tighter supplies of some of these ingredients in the longer term should production or export operations in China deteriorate.”

Specialty Food Items

Most food items will remain in stock, but if you want a specialty food item — especially one imported from abroad — you might soon be out of luck. Pasta and wines from Italy, cheese from France and other niche food products from overseas may be impacted by supply chain interruptions, Anantha Iyer, senior associate dean in supply chain and operations management at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management, told CNBC.

Products That Are Already in Low Supply

A combination of increased demand and short supply has already made it nearly impossible to buy a number of products. Here are items that are out of stock in most places — and that likely won’t be restocked for months.

Virtual Reality Headsets

Due to manufacturing delays in China, Facebook said in February that its Oculus Quest VR headset would remain in short supply for the foreseeable future, Forbes reported. As of that time, the option to purchase a headset online was no longer available. The headsets are still on backorder two months later.

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Thermometers

Americans rushed out to buy thermometers in response to the news of the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re now hard to find anywhere. Stan Cohen, owner of 180 Innovations, a firm that imports thermometers for American retailers, told USA Today that the thermometer shortage is due to “lack of supply and huge demand.”

According to Cohen, China makes about 90% or more of the popular thermometers usually found at retailers like Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid. It typically takes three months for thermometers to go from production in China to American shelves, so the shutdown in supply has caused a lack of product as the demand has ramped up. Once the supply is replenished — which might not occur until the summer — it’s possible that they will sell out and be in short supply once again.

Video Game Consoles

The Nintendo Switch has been sold out at most retailers, with demand way up and supplies down due to the coronavirus outbreak. According to Bloomberg, the supply shortage dates back to February. China paused manufacturing of the Switch’s components, which backed up assembly in Vietnam, which is where most of the American consoles are built. It’s unclear when the supply will be replenished, though Nintendo tweeted on April 7 that those who had preordered a Switch could receive their consoles in the next week, Gizmodo reported.

Disinfectants

It’s already nearly impossible to find Lysol spray and Clorox wipes, and it might be a while before these items are back in stock again. According to USA Today, the brands simply were not prepared for the huge spikes in demand, and the coronavirus-related global supply chain interruptions mean that they now can’t produce enough inventory to meet the inflated demand.

Tom Derry, CEO of the Institute for Supply Management, told the newspaper that you likely won’t be able to buy these products easily again until this summer. He predicts that supply chains should return to normal by mid-May and that out-of-stock disinfectants should begin reappearing on store shelves in June.

Yeast

As breadmaking became a popular stay-at-home activity, producers of dry yeast have struggled to keep up with the demand. John Heilman, vice president of manufacturing for Fleischmann’s Yeast producer AB Mauri, told Slate that there’s been as much as a 600% increase in demand for yeast year over year. He estimates that it will be one to two months until shoppers will see a consistent supply of dry yeast on store shelves.

Where the supply chain is falling short is in the packaging. Stateside, Fleischmann’s Yeast is trying to ramp up the number of employees working at the packaging plants, but their ability to package could be affected by factory shutdowns in India, which makes the company’s jars.

Hand Sanitizer

Even as hand sanitizer production ramps up to meet the growing demand, there is now a supply chain shortage in the plastic containers used to package it, Fox News reported. Some plastic container manufacturers, like Berry Global Group Inc., have shifted their focus away from hand sanitizer containers and have prioritized creating food containers instead.

Freezers

As Americans rushed to stock up on food, many also rushed to the appliance store to buy extra freezers to store their food supply. This has led to freezers selling out at appliance stores across the country. And due to supply chain interruptions, it’s unclear when they will be restocked. Very few appliance companies manufacture their freezers in the U.S., and even those that assemble freezers domestically typically rely on parts that are manufactured in China, Mass Live reported. Plus, factories in the U.S. are slowing down production to maintain social distancing guidelines.

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