Sorbent warns of toilet roll shortages as Toorak, Balmain buy up big

Local toilet paper manufacturer Sorbent has warned coronavirus panic-buying could lead to a supply shortage as major supermarket Woolworths announced a limit on toilet paper packs.

A spokesperson for Sorbent said a continued influx of shoppers buying up toilet paper could see the company run into a supply shortage. "Some products may have been depleted from shelves [but] replenishment should catch up. However, any sustained panic buying in the volumes seen in recent days will be certain to stress supply. Stock shortage with allocations may in some cases be necessary," the spokesperson said.

Founder of Who Gives a Crap toilet paper is bemused by the surge in sales.Credit:Jason South

A spokesman for Woolworths told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald it was applying a limit of four packs per person to ensure customers could still access the products they needed. The limit for applies in store and online.

"It will help shore up stock levels as suppliers ramp up local production and deliveries in response to higher than usual demand," the spokesman said.

Woolworths will also limit purchases of hand sanitiser to two per person and will sell the product from behind the service desk, a space usually reserved for cigarettes and mobile phones, in order to limit the virus-induced flurry. The supermarket expects to receive new hand sanitiser stock in about a week, the spokesman said. No other product purchase limits are currently being considered, he said.

"Our teams are continuing to work hard on restocking stores with long-life food and groceries from our distribution centres. The vast majority of the products in our range remain available for our customers as normal."

Ritchies Supa IGA stores has also imposed a limit of four toilet roll packs per person.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a rare call to the chief executives of Woolworths and Coles, after community anxiety fuelled reports of panic-buying across the country and supermarket shelves ran bare, despite assurances stock shortages would not occur.

Kimberly-Clark, which manufactures Kleenex toilet paper in Australia, said it had production lines running 24 hours a day at its South Australian factory to address the increased, short-term demand. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, it told customers to not panic, saying they "won't be running out any time soon".

 Credit:Matt Golding

Online toilet paper seller Who Gives A Crap ran out of stock on Wednesday after a rush of buyers from well-heeled suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne stocked up.

Company founder and chief executive Simon Griffiths said sales had increased eight-fold in the past few days led by residents in the Sydney suburbs of Wollstonecraft and Balmain, and Toorak and Caufield in Melbourne.

Mr Griffiths said he was baffled by the massive demand for toilet paper. "People were trying to get themselves ready for a scenario where they're not leaving their house for 14 or 30 days, but what we've seen in the last 24 hours is a sort of fear of missing out," he said.

"Shoppers are saying, 'Hey, everyone else is doing this, I need to do it as well', and it's snowballed and become this less rational approach."

Who Gives a Crap manufactures its toilet paper in China but Mr Griffiths said the company's supply chain had not been affected. He expects to start selling toilet paper again next week.

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