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How Colorado businesses and consumers have adapted stresses in product supply chains

Wiped out of toilet paper? Here's why
Posted at 6:13 PM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-05 16:52:00-05

DENVER -- For consumers, disruptions in supply chain result in empty shelves in the toilet paper aisle, or a shortage of cleaning supplies. For restaurants, it means entire menus have to be reconfigured.

For the owner of Sushi Cup, a restaurant in Denver, supply chain disruptions have caused some headaches.

"When everyone comes in and just bulk buys, there isn’t anything really left for restaurants to buy," said Andrew Castillo, the owner of Sushi Cup. "The prices can fluctuate day-to-day or week-to week."

Several major supply chain disruptions were solved after businesses began operating again in the summer. However, some major issues with fresh produce and cleaning supplies have persisted.

"They are only limiting either a box (of gloves) a day or three boxes a day instead of a case," explained Castillo. He also said that when it comes to the menu, "we eliminated a couple of items, tried to make it a little bit more affordable. Try to introduce some items that are affordable as well."

The good news is that over the past eight months, manufacturers, distributors and retailers have adapted to new methods of supplying consumers with products.

"Necessity has been the mother of invention here," said Gregg Macaluso, an instructor at the Masters of Supply Chain program at the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder, who explained that over the summer, business have been "looking for new international supply, looking for new domestic supply, helping suppliers convert their manufacturing capability from one sort of supply to another to try and address needs."

There are still issues with supply, visible even now with reports of certain stores temporarilly out of stock of certain products, like cleaning supplies. But Macaluso says chain stores have new methods of handling shortages.

"The stores have done a phenomenal job of shifting capacities to the kinds of supply that we need," he said.

He says the main way consumers can ensure a product's availability is through responsible purchasing and avoiding erratic, speculative buying.

"If folks will remain patient and consume at their levels and buy at the levels of that consumption, I think we should be just fine."