First it was toilet paper, cleaning wipes, and hand sanitizer. But as the fear-induced hoarding of the pandemic’s early days gave way to the mind-numbing boredom of life in lockdown, the products that are hard to find have changed too. Now inflatable pools, kettlebells, and hair clippers are some of the most frequently out-of-stock pandemic products. Many Americans, finding themselves with an extra $1,200 to blow, have decided this the perfect time to buy a Peloton or a Nintendo Switch — but good luck finding one. Here are the products that have proven notably popular, and often unavailable, during the pandemic.
If a lack of toilet paper defined the start of the lockdown, a lack of bicycles may define the end. As the weather has turned warm and people have gotten comfortable leaving home — but not with public transportation — buying a bike has become a challenge from New York City to Sydney. Entry-level bikes are particularly hard to find and, thanks to supply chain interruptions in China, that isn’t likely to change soon. Bike manufacturers that shut down in January were only able to ramp up production in April, leaving retailers to wait until June for the new bikes to arrive. But don’t expect to easily buy a bike then. As the Times reports, “many retailers have already sold most of the inventory they expect to receive.”
After spending the first few weeks of lockdown putting on the quarantine 15, people are now trying to work it off and home gyms are as popular as home hair salons. That’s made weight sets a hot commodity, with Amazon and Walmart unable to keep free weights in stock and one Arizona retailer comparing sales to Black Friday “times ten.” Like with other products, the shortage is being caused by both demand and supply issues, as GQ chronicled in “Inside the Great Kettlebell Shortage of 2020.” The scarcity extends to yoga mats, with more than half of the best-selling varieties out of stock on Amazon, and more people than ever plunking down $2,300 for a Peloton, despite the seven to ten weeks they’ll have to wait to get it.
The active ingredient in Pepcid, famotidine was the subject of a trial in April in which doctors administered it intravenously to COVID-19 patients. Before the results of the trial were even known, medicines containing it were gone from the shelves. A few weeks later, it’s still not clear that famotidine is an effective treatment for COVID-19, but according to some doctors, it “might” be.
Stashing away 50 pounds of ground meat? Then you may want a second freezer. In March sales of stand-alone freezers were up 45 percent over the same month a year ago, and Home Depot has several popular freezers that are out of stock or on backorder. As the executive of one manufacturer told the Washington Post, “Now people who are single want freezers, and people in apartments think they need a freezer. Households who already have two refrigerators with freezers also want a separate freezer.”
DIY haircuts are on the rise during the lockdown, which has led to a shortage in high-quality hair clippers. Among the highest in demand is the Wahl Color Pro, which is out of stock on Wahl’s website, where it sells for $29.99, but can be found on Amazon for $224.99.
The Nintendo Switch
If you’re not playing Animal Crossing, are you even in quarantine? Nintendo’s cutesy world-building sim has exploded in popularity during lockdown, leading to soaring demand for the Nintendo Switch, the company’s handheld gaming console. That’s just one reason the devices have been hard to come by the last couple months. Another is a bot built by a 16-year-old that has allowed resellers to scoop up Switches as soon as they come back in stock. While the boost in demand might sound like good news for Nintendo, the company will likely struggle to meet it as the year continues. Lockdowns have interrupted the supply chain and Nintendo now says Switches are likely to be in limited supply this holiday season.
As the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day weekend often marks the opening of pools across the country. Not this year. So people are buying their own. Builders of high-end, in-ground pools are reporting a “tremendous” market for their services and inflatable pool companies are breaking records with their sales. Some popular inflatable pools on Amazon and Target.com are out of stock, too.
It’s little mystery why thermometers have been hard to keep in stock the last couple of months. But the type of thermometer in highest demand has changed over the course of the outbreak. In March, the Chicago Sun-Times found that online stores were universally out of at-home thermometer as public health experts encouraged people to make sure they had them on hand. In recent weeks though, businesses have been smashing the buy button as they prepare to reopen. This week, the CEO of one of America’s largest thermometer manufacturers told CNN that demand for the company’s non-contact thermometers is up 900 percent.
Two major factors are driving a global trampoline shortage, high demand from parents desperate to get their kids to go outside and an interruption in the supply chain. Now brands such as Vuly and Acon are showing products out of stock or taking pre-orders for August delivery.
Need to hop on a Zoom? Attend class no Google Meet? Experience the joy of telemedicine? Then you might need a webcam. The shift to remote living caused a run on popular webcams early in the pandemic, with suspect brands filling the void. Now, just as lockdowns begin to lift and in-face communication becomes more acceptable, the stock is replenishing.