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Toilet paper is a hot commodity

PORTLAND, Maine — There’s no denying Tissue Plus is on a roll. As luck would have it, the company launched production of toilet paper a couple of weeks ago — just as the reality of the coronavirus outbreak was starting to hit the U.S. Consumers began stocking up on the basic necessity in the event they had to isolate or quarantine at home for weeks. “You could argue this is impeccable timing,” President Marc Cooper said from the plant in Bangor, Maine. But in reality, he said, it’s stressful because the company is inundated with frantic customers seeking to buy more toilet paper than the small factory can produce. From Maine to Oregon, toilet paper producers are ramping up production and shipping operations to resupply stores wiped out by consumers buying toilet paper and paper towels in bulk. But the toilet paper is flying off the shelves as fast as stores can restock them. Even shopping clubs like Costco and big box retailers like Walmart and Target that have enormous stocks were emptied of toilet paper and paper towels.

Those stores are still getting shipments, but the shelves are emptied all over again as soon as they’re restocked. In Maine, officials are investigating a convenience store accused of selling $10 rolls of toilet paper. The numbers back up the reports from the field: Toilet paper sales nationally jumped about 213% in the week ending March 14, compared to the same period a year before, according to market research firm Nielsen. The Great Toilet Paper Panic of 2020 was not confined to the United States. A video seen widely earlier this month from Australia showed three women brawling over toilet paper, underscoring the dire situation.

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