Menstruating people say it’s hard to find tampons on store shelves across the United States right now as supply chain disruptions hit the feminine care aisle.
“I just went to 5 different Walgreens [and] the shelves are CLEAR,” a Twitter user said. user last weekwhile people on Reddit have posted articles on empty shelves dating back months.
The shortage stems from a combination of staffing issues at factories, bottlenecks in transportation and rising costs of key raw materials used to make the products, according to pad makers.
CVS, Target and Walgreens said in statements to NPR that they were aware of a limited supply of tampons at some stores. A CVS spokesperson said that in recent weeks suppliers have been unable to fill all of the company’s orders. Both companies said they were working with tampon makers to replenish store inventory as soon as possible.
Walgreens said its shortages “may only be for specific brands while we go through the supply disruption,” but its website is updating with the latest store-level inventory.
Dana Marlowe, the founder of I Support the Girls, an organization that provides menstrual products to people in economic difficulty, says the shortage has been going on longer than most people realize.
Marlowe says her group has seen a sharp drop in tampon donations in recent months. The organization received half as many stamps this year compared to the same period last year and more than 60% fewer than in 2020.
“Our shelves are empty,” Marlowe told NPR.
Procter & Gamble, maker of Tampax products, told NPR that the supply issue is temporary and that “the Tampax team is producing tampons 24/7 to meet the increased demand.”
P&G, which has the largest menstrual product market share, said on an April earnings call that sourcing and transporting raw materials for menstrual products, as well as trucking the products to retailers, “continue to be expensive and highly volatile”.
This is another supply chain issue affecting women
This is another supply chain issue where women bear the brunt of the cost as mothers struggle to feed their babies during the formula shortage.
Time first reported the shortage of tampons last week, noting that it lasted longer than other shortages, such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies, at the start of the pandemic. Supply chain decision makers and manufacturer CEOs are mostly men, the magazine reported.
Tampons are also becoming more expensive due to inflation. A year after announcing a price increase for feminine care products, P&G said on the April earnings call that continued supply chain constraints have resulted in a further rise in product prices, which will come in effective mid-July.
The average price of tampons rose nearly 10% in the year to last month, Bloomberg reported citing data from NielsenIQ, due to rising costs of the materials used. The materials that make up the pads, including cotton, rayon, pulp and plastic, have been in high demand for use in masks and other medical products during the pandemic. Extreme drought in Texas, diesel prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have also tightened the supply of these products.
I Support The Girls founder Marlowe said existing stigmas and taboos around menstruation make it difficult to get the national attention and action needed to address the shortage issue. It is the one that affects vulnerable groups the most, she said.
She encountered women who lacked the resources to make multiple trips to the store, she said, and resorted to dangerous methods. “They use cardboard and tape, torn sheets” and other unsanitary items, she said.