When's the best time to buy toilet paper?
Toilet paper manufacturers are working around the clock - but many of us are still struggling to get our hands on precious loo rolls and other staples as coronavirus panic deepens.
Supermarkets around the country are still being stripped of staples as Australians brace for potential self-isolation periods as the deadly outbreak continues to spread.
Solaris Paper, which produces Sorbent toilet rolls, and Kimberly-Clark, which is behind Kleenex Toilet Tissue, have both confirmed they are working "24/7" to meet the sudden increase in demand.
The products are being delivered to supermarkets each day and are largely being restocked overnight - but shoppers are still confused as to the best time to hit the shops if they still haven't managed to replenish their dwindling supply, with social media awash with tips and advice from those lucky enough to have snapped up an elusive pack.
NEW WOOLIES RULE
Today, Woolworths confirmed the first hour of trading would be restricted to elderly or disabled shoppers, meaning Woolies stores across the country will be off limits for other customers between 7am and 8am from Tuesday until at least Friday.
So far, neither Coles nor Aldi have confirmed whether they will consider adopting a similar policy, although certain IGA stores have already introduced exclusive shopping hours for senior and disability card holders.
We’re launching a dedicated shopping hour in our stores to help support the needs of the elderly & people with disability in the community. From tomorrow until at least friday, we’ll be opening exclusively for them to shop from 7-8am, where permitted.— Woolworths (@woolworths) March 15, 2020
Meanwhile, several initiatives are now under way to help members of the community who are struggling.
One example is the Neighbourly Love Facebook page, which encourages those in need to share their situation with the hope that others in the group can help out.
To ensure as many Aussies as possible are able to buy the products they need, Coles is now limiting toilet paper to one pack per person per shop and two items per person for other essentials including pasta, flour, dry rice, paper towels, paper tissues, hand sanitiser and mince meat.
Woolworths also has a one-pack limit per shop for paper towels, serviettes and wipes, toilet paper and bulk packets of rice and two packs for dry pasta, flour, tissues and hand sanitiser.
Aldi shoppers are also now restricted to one pack of toilet paper per shop.
Those who attempt to break those rules and purchase more than the limit allows will have their extra items confiscated at the checkout.
Over the weekend, a news.com.au reporter witnessed a pile of confiscated toilet paper packs and other items at a supermarket self-serve checkout that had been taken by staff from shoppers trying to flout the limits.
RETURN TO NORMALITY
Meanwhile, some supermarkets are now slowly starting to meet the increased demand and return shelves to pre-coronavirus levels.
Queensland University of Technology retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer said many Australians were now sharing photos of well-stocked supermarket shelves on social media as the situation started to return to normal.
"That's probably not true for the majority of shoppers, however, as supermarkets are still continuing to struggle to get products into stores to meet this particular spike in demand," Dr Mortimer said.
"But it was pleasing to note this morning that Woolies has launched an early hour for elderly and disabled shoppers who are possibly more exposed to missing out when you have isolated scenes of people pushing and shoving in aisles
"It is also taking longer (than usual) for online grocery orders to get to homes and I would expect those online delivery times will start to move out longer as well as more people choose to self-isolate, stay home and avoid crowded locations."
Dr Mortimer said at the moment, the best plan of attack was still to "get in early and battle the crowds".
"But in the next few weeks, suddenly houses will fill up and the toilet paper shortage will no longer be an issue - but next it might be another type of product that experiences a spike in demand," he said.
"I think we have hit the peak and will see less and less panic buying with stores actually able to restock, and once we do get stock on shelves, people will start to calm down.
"In times of crisis, Aussies tend to step up and help each other out, and while we are seeing some fights in supermarkets, for every story about something like that we're also hearing stories of people helping their neighbours and community."