FFirst, it was baby formula. Now, it’s tampons.
Store shelves where tampons should be stocked have been bare in recent months due to supply chain issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, setting the scene for a shortage that’s been brewing for a while.
Evidence of the shortage has been growing on social media and forums, though data mapping out the course of the shortage have yet to be compiled. Frustrated women have shared their trouble finding their preferred menstrual products on Twitter and Reddit, often including photos of empty shelves at big-box retailers such as CVS and Walgreens.
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“With China shut down due to Covid, supply chain issues are going from bad to worse,” one woman wrote on Twitter in April. “I cannot find the feminine hygiene products I like anywhere. I can find them online though for $10 for a box of pads and $17 for a box of tampons?! This isn’t some fancy brand. This f***ing sucks.”
Another Twitter user wrote, “Is a female apocalypse coming or something?! Why is every store out of tampons?”
is there a buffer shortage or something? I just went to 5 different Walgreens and the shelves are CLEARED
— S★J (@lilhandsy) June 8, 2022
The shortage has been driven by supply chain issues that have plagued the manufacture of other products, most notably baby formula. The major tampon manufacturers, Procter & Gamble, Edgewell, and Kimberly-Clark, have cited COVID-19-related limitations on employees’ ability to work and travel, shipping and transportation bottlenecks, and difficulty sourcing raw materials.
Cotton and rayon, key ingredients for the manufacture of tampons, have been in high demand throughout the pandemic, which has also led to higher costs. The price per pound of cotton, for instance, has also climbed about 88% since the start of the pandemic.
Procter & Gamble, which manufactures Tampax products, America’s most popular tampon brand, said the company has ramped up manufacturing at its Maine plant to operate around the clock.
“We understand it is frustrating for consumers when they can’t find what they need. We can assure you this is a temporary situation, and the Tampax team is producing tampons 24/7 to meet the increased demand for our products,” a company spokesperson told the Washington Examine.
A company spokesperson also attributed increased demand and low supply to the “hit” 2020 ad campaign featuring comedian Amy Schumer, according to Time.
Kimberly-Clark and Edgewell, manufacturers of Kotex and Playtex respectively, did not respond to requests for comment. The companies disclosed in reports for investors that the pandemic could continue to disrupt their abilities to satisfy heightened demand for the products. Kimberly-Clark, for instance, told investors the pandemic could have numerous negative impacts on the business, “including causing significant volatility in demand for our products, changes in consumer behavior and preference, disruptions in our manufacturing and supply chain operations … significant changes in the economic or political conditions in markets in which we operate.”
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Major retailers have acknowledged the shortage of particular brands, though they insist they are in regular contact with companies about their efforts to boost supplies.
“Walgreens works diligently with our suppliers to ensure we have tampon supply available,” a spokesperson for Walgreens said. “However, similar to other retailers, we are experiencing some temporary brand-specific shortages in certain geographies. While we will continue to have products at shelf and online, it may only be in specific brands while we navigate the supply disruption.”