Threat of Coronavirus Causing ‘Overbuying Epidemic' at Local Stores

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While the growing threat of coronavirus in the U.S. is impacting sales at some stores and supermarkets, big-box wholesalers like Costco are still seeing product fly off the shelves.

Overbuying at Costco is a common complaint among members under ordinary circumstances, but employees say the coronavirus outbreak is creating a kind of “overbuying epidemic.”

Taylor Cox was buying bottled water on Wednesday, even though he has a purifier at home. That’s because he’s worried about an outbreak close to home, and scared "That I won't be able to buy water at some point."

Costco is having a hard time restocking shelves after shoppers like Cox come through and wipe them clean. Members who get there after, like Sharon Disney, sometimes go home with less in their cart than usual.

Disney saw empty shelves in the bread isle and empty pallets where cases of water were stacked, and employees said shelves on the cleaning supplies isle were also empty.

That also hurts Disney and other shoppers who are cautious about keeping things clean.

"I have cleaned the cart, cleaned my hands, cleaned all the door knobs,” she explained.

The threat of an outbreak appears to be cleaning out Costco.

It's not just the anxiety of running out of supplies that has Costco customers overbuying but the possibility the virus could make venturing outside too risky.

"I'm not really fearful, but when I come here and see things are low it is more of a, ‘Well, I might as well pick it up while I am here,’” Cox said.

Costco's latest earnings report will be released Thursday. Barron's is predicting a significant increase in sales because of the coronavirus threat.

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a State of Emergency on Wednesday after the first in-state death from the virus was reported in Placer County.

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