Reports of a nationwide shortage of tampons are prompting women to stock up.
The result is scanty shelves in many stores and a dearth of donations to nonprofits that supply period products to low-income women. Some people are trying alternatives to tampons, and the situation has reignited a push to stop taxing menstrual products.
“We are starting to see stamp turbulence appearing in the Instacart app in response to growing shortages, with shopping behavior beginning to rival that of the start of the pandemic as customers shift to stockpiling behavior,” said Laurentia Romaniuk, trends expert for Instacart.
At the beginning of June, Time magazine said a nationwide shortage of tampons after a number of groups and individuals reported and posted on social media that they could not find tampons in stores. A search of half a dozen Walmart, Target and CVS stores over the weekend found shelves thin, but shoppers could walk away with a box of Tampax.
Instacart, a grocery delivery and pickup service, reported a 13% week-over-week increase for searches nationwide for tampons last week. In Dallas, searches for tampons jumped to 57%. But many of those buyers couldn’t find what they needed.
As of June 19, incidents of Instacart shoppers finding tampons when customers ordered them fell to 67%, the lowest rate since the pandemic began in April 2020.
National stamp sales on the platform were up 29%, while in Dallas-Fort Worth, sales were up 87% week-over-week.
CVS spokesman Matt Blanchette said the pharmacy is working with suppliers to ensure stores have an “adequate supply of tampons,” and if a local store is closed, it’s temporary.
P&G, which makes brands such as Tampax and Always, previously said it was “working hard to increase production to meet increased demand for our products.” Additionally, supply chain issues have also impacted the shortage.
Part of the fallout from the shortage and buying frenzy is that organizations that provide menstrual products to those in need are seeing a lack of menstrual product donations – locally and nationally.
Donation shipments from vendors to PERIOD have been delayed due to supply chain issues, said Damaris Pereda, national programs director for the organization that provides free menstrual products and advocates for more accessible menstrual products. The organization does not have the steady supply of product it has had in the past, which impacts PERIOD’s ability to distribute product to organizations around the world.
In 2020, the organization distributed over 3 million menstrual products. Last year, PERIOD distributed 1.2 million products, and so far in 2022, the group has distributed around 200,000.
“We plan to distribute more, but already the rate at which we are able to distribute products has been significantly lower because we simply don’t have the products available,” Pereda said.
The lack of donations also has an impact on local organizations. Jessica Nordon, founder of Chhaupadi, a North Texas nonprofit focused on destigmatizing periods, offers free menstrual products locally and in Nepal. Nordon said it received only one box of period underwear from PERIOD. When she asked for more donations, PERIOD said they were low and couldn’t send more.
Additionally, while Chhaupadi has had period products from community donations for the past two years, the organization hasn’t received many donations in recent weeks. So the group buys products and turns to Facebook Marketplace to meet community demand, Nordon said.
Typically, Chhaupadi bin donation sites receive up to 15 boxes a month, but this month there have been no donations so far, she said. “It’s pretty sad for us because we rely on community donations to help those in need,” Nordon said.
The shortage is prompting some people to consider alternatives to tampons. Sara Bou-Hamdan, chapter president for PERIOD. at the University of Texas at Arlington indicated various options among sanitary napkins, menstrual cups and reusable products.
Reusable products are more durable and can last for years, Pereda said. Women often don’t think about reusable products due to period stigma, but for anyone with access to clean water and sanitation, reusable products can be an option.
“If you’re able to buy a reusable product, that can really help reduce [demand] for those who may not have the means or cannot use reusables, to really leave [disposable products] for those in need,” she said.
Menstrual cups have grown in popularity due to their reduced environmental impact compared to tampons and sanitary napkins, said Susan Powers, director of the Institute for Environmental Sustainability at Clarkson University, which has studied the environmental impact of menstrual cups. menstrual products. Menstrual cups made of silicone, latex, or other types of reusable materials can last for years, eliminating monthly trips to the store for tampons or pads.
“Too many people just want to throw stuff away and it goes away, but it doesn’t really go away,” Powers said.
For the sake of access to period products, some legislators want to eliminate sales taxes on these items. Texas is one of 27 states that imposes a sales tax on all menstrual products. Earlier this month, Houston Rep. Al Green and New York Rep. Grace Meng introduced the Stop Taxes Against Menstrual Products bill to stop states from levying sales taxes on items.
“Tampons, pads and other menstrual products are not luxury items and it’s high time we stopped treating them as such,” Meng said.
Retail journalist Maria Halkias contributed to this article.