By Kate Hester

For some shopping used to be a great form of cardio, but now, most people get their shopping done with a mere two clicks — ‘add to cart’ and ‘checkout’.

Think back to when everything shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were two things on people’s minds: safety and toilet paper.

Toilet paper may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of retail, but it falls under that category. When it was suddenly sold out, people were freaking out in their grocery store’s paper products aisle.

However, the world was never actually out of toilet paper.

“A major effect of the pandemic on retail businesses are supply chain issues” said Isabella Guzman, administrator of the Small Business Administration in a press conference on small businesses and the pandemic.

Panic buying caused empty shelves across the country, creating the supply-and-demand nightmare.

Almost two years later, TP is back on the shelves, but retail supply chains are far from back to normal.

Why? One reason is manufacturing delays, but another is the continuing shift of products available for online purchase. “Many [small businesses] have created an e-commerce tool to reach their customers,” Guzman said.

Did you know you could buy toilet paper online? It is available at the online version of stores such as Walmart, Target and The Home Depot just to name a few.

These big names already had online stores, but many main street retailers did not. To keep selling with closed doors, many small businesses were forced to move online in hopes that their customers would move with them.

University of Georgia senior Emma Shirkey was excited for the wider push to e-commerce and the broader selection of products available online.

“I’m primarily an online shopper. Even things like Instacart have made it so convenient for me to get what I need without it being its own errand. I feel like it saves me so much time,” said Shirkey.

As a student without a car on campus, Shirkey had been shopping mostly online even before the pandemic. She said that when the pandemic began there was a huge shipping delay for online orders, and since she was hesitant to go out due to the virus, her spending hit the brakes for a little while.

In some cases, the supply chain is catching back up with the demand, but many companies are still trying to mitigate delays.

For example, the popular Bogg Bag is almost impossible to find and according to the company’s website, it halted setting up new wholesale accounts due to an order backlog. They are not alone; Hallmark delayed its highly anticipated ornament debut event in October due to manufacturing delays.

But shortages or not, a virtual shopping spree is never far away for the shopping enthusiasts.

“I love to browse! I spend far too many hours putting together outfits for parties that don’t exist and researching vendors for events that aren’t real. It’s almost like a hobby,” Shirkey said.

Kate Hester is a master’s student in journalism at the University of Georgia.