13 Shortages We’re Likely to See This Winter Because of COVID-19
Earlier in the year, it was hard to find things like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Now, as we head into the colder months with no end to the pandemic insight, these are the items you'll want to stock up on ASAP.
Why will there be shortages?
The coronavirus pandemic has changed nearly everything: how we live, how we work, and how we interact with others (wear your mask, please!). But one of the more unexpected effects of the crisis was how it impacted the way we shop—and more importantly, how it limited our access to important items and caused people to stockpile supplies. For example, remember when you couldn’t find toilet paper in April? Or how you still can’t find a bike?
Unfortunately, these shortages probably aren’t in the past. With a new round of infections expected this winter, plus the typical flu season, there will likely be even more disruptions ahead. To help you get ahead, we asked the experts to identify the items that might be hard to come by in the coming months. From space heaters and humidifiers to gym gear and video games, these are the supplies you should stock up on now—before everyone else gets the same idea.
Humidifiers and air purifiers
Scientists don’t know everything about the coronavirus yet, but they do know a lot about viruses in general. And one thing they’re fairly certain of is that viruses tend to thrive in low humidity—something that the cold, dry winter air brings in abundance. Add that to the fact that the best humidifiers are naturally high in demand each winter—they prevent everything from dry skin to nasal congestion—and there’s no wonder experts expect humidifiers to fly off the shelves.
Air purifiers will see a similarly increased demand. “The pandemic has sparked an uptick in popularity of air purifiers for the home and office, as well as MERV-13 or higher filters that you can add to your home’s existing HVAC system,” says Gabrielle Pastorek, retail analyst at the personal finance comparison website Finder.com.
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Video games and consoles
If your kid’s Christmas list typically includes video games, video games and more video games, then listen up: You should probably purchase them early this year. “Both Xbox and PlayStation are set to release new gaming consoles during the second week of November,” says Pastorek. “Rumours are already starting to swirl that both companies have faced production hiccups, which may mean that these much-awaited consoles will be in even shorter supply than expected.” Fortunately, production of the Nintendo Switch, which was in short supply for much of 2020, should be back to normal soon—although it wouldn’t hurt to purchase one well before the holidays just in case.
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Over the summer, many of us spruced up our outdoor spaces by adding furniture, grills, gardens and other features. The new challenge? Getting your space ready for winter so you can continue to socialize (at a safe distance) outdoors, which is thought to limit the transmission of germs and bacteria. “Outdoor heaters and fire pits will be some of the first items to go as people are looking to cozy up their outdoor spaces while sheltering in place,” says Kristen Gall, retail trends expert at Rakuten. Other comfy outdoor goods might also be in short supply. For example, you might want to get your hands on outdoor blankets, hand warmers and even hot tubs sooner rather than later.
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Large fitness equipment
As infections continue to rise, Americans will likely stay wary of visiting crowded places like gyms and group fitness classes. But that doesn’t mean their motivation to break a sweat has disappeared—quite the opposite, actually. “Large fitness equipment like Peloton, Mirror and Tonal will sell out quickly, especially since it will be harder for people to exercise outdoors during the winter,” says Gall.
Winter also brings the New Year, a time Americans typically flock to the gym. This year, instead of buying gym memberships, people might decide to invest in equipment of their own. That said, if you plan to purchase a stationary bike, treadmill, elliptical or another piece of large fitness equipment, you might want to do it soon.
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Dumbbells and barbells
Large gym equipment isn’t the only workout gear that will be in high demand this winter. Fitness equipment like dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells sold out quickly at the beginning of the pandemic—and unfortunately, there’s still somewhat of a shortage. “The pandemic has forced many people out of gyms and into home gyms, spiking the demand for dumbbells and other home gym equipment,” says Pastorek. If you’re in the market for these items, including a new set of CAP barbells, snag them while you can.
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Home office equipment
As many of us continue to clock in our nine to fives from our kitchen tables, we can expect to see increased demand for home office equipment. Because after all, no one actually wants to work from their kitchen table. “The number of people working from home rose sharply last spring,” says Michael Bonebright, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “While many offices have reopened, the threat of a second wave has led plenty of businesses to keep telecommuting an option for workers. As a result, home office chairs, desks and other must-haves are still very likely to sell out whenever prices drop. That’s unlikely to change in the coming months, when a large portion of workers could be sent home for quarantine again.”
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Face masks and PPE
Shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) made headlines throughout the spring and summer. And unfortunately, we’re likely in for another one. “With the second wave of coronavirus expected, combined with flu season, face masks and other personal protective equipment like gloves and face shields will likely become hard to find again,” says Pastorek. Before the cold weather hits, make sure to stock up on items like reusable face masks, surgical masks, hand sanitizer and face shields (remember: you still need to wear a mask under a face shield).
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Artificial Christmas trees
If your holiday season revolves around decorating your Christmas tree to be the prettiest one on the block, then you might want to get started early—especially if you need to buy an artificial one. “With many people not venturing out this year, artificial Christmas trees may clean out quickly,” says Gall. You heard it here first: Get your Christmas tree situation figured out, stat.
And on a similarly festive note, here’s how to decorate for the holidays, according to your zodiac sign.
Does someone you know have a bicycle on their holiday wish list? They might (still) be out of luck. “Bikes have been hard to come by for several months now, and this trend will likely continue through the holiday shopping season,” says Pastorek. “If you can’t get your hands on a physical bike in time for Christmas, put your name on a waiting list to receive yours on a first-come, first-serve basis, if available.” You might also scour websites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and eBay for secondhand options. Just make sure you do your due diligence to confirm the bike you choose is safe and not stolen.
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Arts and crafts supplies
At this point in quarantine, many of us have tried at least one new hobby (and we won’t judge if your hobby only lasted one day). But as people spend more time inside during the winter months, you might notice some hobby-related items sell out. “The ubiquity of art tutorials on YouTube has led tons of bored, quarantined folks to take up a new hobby like painting or soap making,” says Bonebright. “Because of this, entry-level art and craft supplies have gotten more expensive—and cheap ones sell out quickly.” If you find yourself in the market for these items, Bonebright recommends trying a dedicated craft store like Michael’s and waiting until they have a good coupon. “More generalized retailers like Amazon tend to have comparable prices, but less stock,” he says.
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You might’ve noticed that the cleaning aisle at your local supermarket looks a little, well, empty. Unfortunately, companies are still dealing with inventory issues from the spring; Clorox even said consumers would continue to see shortages of its disinfectant wipes and other products into 2021. The severity of the winter season will contribute to that. “Given the fact that cold and flu sits in the middle of the year, and then we expect the pandemic to be with us for the entirety of the year, it will take the full year to get up to the supply levels that we need to be at,” Clorox President and CEO-elect Linda Rendle said on a conference call in August. That said, if you stumble upon a stocked cleaning aisle, you should grab a few items while you can. It’s unclear just how many of these products will be available come winter. Until Clorox Wipes are back in stock, bleach and a rag make a good, if less convenient, substitute.
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Shelf-stable foods and drinks
OK, we’re not saying to hoard food like the apocalypse is coming. But if there are items you can’t live without, you might want to stock up. “Winter storms combined with COVID-19 will have us more house-bound than ever, possibly leading to shortages of shelf-stable foods like we saw earlier this year,” says Shannon Vissers, shopping and retail analyst at MerchantMaverick.com. “Some shelf-stable beverages are especially affected; currently there’s an aluminum can shortage, which is starting to affect supplies of canned drinks like beer and soda.” The can shortage will likely impact the production of drinks that sell in lower volumes (for example, you might be hard-pressed to find Cherry Coke Zero, but you shouldn’t worry about locating a Diet Coke).
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RVs, campers, and winter camping supplies
Vacations look different in 2020—and winter getaways are no outliers. “Our travel options will remain limited this winter, and it may be too cold to comfortably camp outdoors,” says Vissers. “For this reason, RVs and campers for socially distanced travel are hot, hot, hot—and this trend shows no signs of stopping. If you plan to use your motor-home this winter, you’ll want to stock up on winter camping supplies now.” (Here are five tips for the best road trip ever.)
Vissers predicts other items associated with winter fun might be in high demand too. For example, if you love to hit the slopes, you might want to purchase a sled or snow tube before the cold weather hits.
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