The article examines how the unexpected coronavirus caused a high demand for sanitary equipment. According to the report, the new coronavirus spread quickly throughout many nations worldwide, triggering a surge in sales of hand sanitizers and sanitation items in many foreign marketplaces (Krishna, 2020). Due to the rapid rise in demand, various sanitary and cleaning products, including hand sanitizer, disinfectants, and tissues, were in limited supply. Consequently, many suppliers and merchants increased product prices by more than five times their original price. Further, the article reports that Target and Kroger have begun restricting orders of various sanitation products due to massive hoarding (Krishna, 2020). Ultimately, companies could not produce wipes and hand sanitizer fast enough to meet the demand.
Likely Product Shortages and Consumer behavior during a Pandemic
The COVID-19 epidemic has caused substantial obstacles to global supply networks. Several nationwide lockdowns and curfews impede the movement of raw materials and processed commodities, causing manufacturing bottlenecks (Rees & Rungcharoenkitkul, 2021). Various sectors are seeing rippling implications in a backdrop of significant breakdowns in global supply chains. The most affected sectors include consumer goods, electronics, pharmaceuticals, automotive, and medical equipment suppliers (Xu et al., 2020). As a result, different industries are experiencing devastating repercussions due to substantial supply chain failures globally.
In truth, COVID-19 has uncovered flaws in production techniques and distribution systems throughout many sectors. On the positive side, the pandemic has helped to paint a picture of what products will most likely face a shortage during a pandemic. With health authorities, epidemiologists, and the World Health Organization recommending the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers or hand rubs and hand hygiene with detergent, demand for these products is projected to skyrocket (World Health Organization, 2020). A similar pandemic will drive consumers to stockpile pathogen-killing cream, spray-on disinfectant, washroom cleaners, surface cleaning chemicals and tissues, and thorough cleaning products. This will result in a shortage of these products and lead to price increases by more than 100% of their average price.
Additionally, similar impacts will be observed in the healthcare sector. Healthcare workers have relied on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others throughout the pandemic. These are standard protective measures that are always observed during any disease outbreak. Unfortunately, with a pandemic ravaging the entire planet, this critical equipment will be in short supply. Thus, COVID-19 has left physicians, nurses, and other emergency personnel gravely ill-equipped to care for infected patients. This has been attributed to a lack of medical masks, protective gloves, respirators, face shields, goggles, aprons, and gowns.
In the wake of vital product shortages, consumers were forced to change their buying behaviors. Initially, many consumers’ started to panic-buy hygiene and sanitation products, including wipes. Many people also stockpiled food and numerous refreshments following the announcement of lockdowns and curfews. However, research has shown that consumers become price-sensitive and quality conscience during major economic crises. For example, the price was discovered to influence modified buying behavior during the Asian fiscal crisis substantially. As a result, customers concentrated on lower costs and were more interested in obtaining better value (Pärson & Vancic, 2021). The same behavior was observed during the pandemic when customers became increasingly price and sales-conscious. Likewise, consumers are likely to make fewer shopping trips to limit unnecessary expenditures. Furthermore, lower disposable income reduces the frequency of unplanned expenditures, and customers are most inclined to use shopping plans and organize their purchases ahead of time. Therefore, it can also be argued that the rate of shopping may increase during a pandemic, but with a reduction in the number of goods purchased.
Consistently, during a pandemic, people may prefer quality over price. When the virus broke out in the Wuhan food market, the Chinese government closed the whole town and restricted the sale of specific foods. Likewise, consumers may avoid purchasing some goods perceived to be hazardous to their health. Consumers will place a premium on perceived value over all other factors, namely, cost, and will hesitate to purchase products from animals linked with the source of a health crisis. Throughout the pandemic, quality checks have become mainstream practices by consumers when purchasing various products. Finally, consumers may engage in violent practices, many of which were witnessed in the early days of the pandemic. For example, in some countries, such as the United States, shoppers were captured fighting over masks in supermarkets (Bromwich, 2020). These violent confrontations may become rampant as consumers attempt to stock up on their inventories during a pandemic.
Strategies a Company May Use To Control Shortages
The COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the efficient production and supply of crucial goods and services. This has resulted in high demand for goods in extremely low supply or completely unavailable. In such a situation, companies can scale up their production to meet the growing demand. However, increasing production may be challenging because companies will have to invest in new machinery or hire more employees to help with the increased workload. This may not be a good option for small companies trying to cut costs in this critical period. Moreover, increasing production may lead to excess stock with no buyers.
Conversely, companies can consider using value-based pricing to manage shortages. Value-based pricing is a method of adjusting the product’s price according to its perceived value instead of its past price (Kienzler, 2018). This method generates more revenue by raising prices while maintaining product volume. Value-based pricing is ideal when the buying decision is psychologically driven or a shortage factor. This makes it appropriate for companies affected by the pandemic. However, price increases during a crisis will most likely be received negatively. Consumers may opt for cheaper products offered by competitors. Likewise, some forms of partnership with rivals and other industry behaviors can be restricted by antimonopoly or unfair trade practice regulations. The fallout can be catastrophic, resulting in brand troubles and litigations in several regions. Accordingly, managers must ensure that rising costs justify any considerable price rise.
Many companies did not see the pandemic coming, including those from developed nations. This translates to a lack of planning and risk management in their supply chain practices. Preparing for and adjusting to shifts in the world market is part of planning and risk management. Political interests, credit access, pandemic occurrences, customer needs, and more cause major sector changes, which directly impact the supply chain. According to Baye and Prince (2016), this is where planning, monitoring and evaluation play a role. Periodic market appraisals and reconsiderations, and contingency plans are required for businesses to remain as productive and successful as feasible. Major operational risks should be recognized and assessed before they can be controlled, responded to, and mitigated. Companies should have a risk management strategy to respond to and resolve significant interruptions in their supply chain. This will also allow the companies to reduce damage and return to normal operations quickly. The supply chain planning and risk management will ensure that customer demands are forecasted and met in time. It will also limit the need for government intervention during a crisis.
To be competitive, all companies depend on outstanding customer service. Unfortunately, many companies were overwhelmed with increased customer demands for unavailable products. In turn, employees were frustrated and were forced to introduce measures to prevent customers from overbuying certain items. In general, service quality is at the heart of supply chain governance and one of the most significant supply chain difficulties (Baye & Prince, 2016). Supplying the relevant goods, in the correct quantities, to the appropriate places, and on the schedule are the fundamental requirements that a supply chain must meet. As straightforward as that may appear, there are plenty of shifting components in that basic operation, as well as several potentials for things to go wrong. In this situation, one-size-fits-all solutions cannot work. Customers want choices, and service personalization is standard in the modern world.
In this context, transparent, accessible communication channels are ideal to guarantee that customer service expectations are addressed. The key to effective communication is to ensure that data is available, the supply chains are visible in action, and that correct, up-to-date facts can be provided (Lehmacher, 2017). Increased customer satisfaction will result from the use of technology that enables users to manage and react to developments that are occurring in real time. Organizations that spend on technologies that enhance visibility and streamline information are better prepared to tackle customer service difficulties during a pandemic. Improved customer experience will lead to positive feedback and increased business due to continuous purchases.
In a disruptive pandemic, businesses may experience difficulties with imports and exports. Although some companies might want to have a single supplier to cut costs or strengthen their supply, this method can be precarious. For example, if the vendor goes out of business for an extended period, the whole supply chain will be significantly disrupted. As demand rises, supplier management may be the difference between success and failure for some industries. To avoid such scenarios, companies should diversify their supply chain. A network of suppliers will ensure that the business can import from other suppliers when one supplier is affected (Lehmacher, 2017). Similarly, companies should optimize and reroute their logistics and transportation to ensure that local distribution and exportation of products are not interrupted.
This analysis has shown that a pandemic can have disruptive consequences such as a broken supply chain. In such situations, essential products become difficult to acquire and, at the same time, increase in price. To mitigate such shortages, the paper has proposed the following strategies: increasing production, value-based pricing, planning, and risk management, improved customer service, diversifying the supply chain, and optimizing logistics and transportation. The demand strategies are increasing production, optimizing logistics and transportation, planning and risk management, and diversifying the supply chain. Supply strategies are value-based pricing and improved customer service. Finally, the most important strategy is increasing production to meet growing customer needs.
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