Menstruating women are complaining that it is difficult to find tampons in stores across the United States right now because supply chain issues reach the feminine care aisle.
"I just went at 5 Walgreens [and] all the shelves are CLEARED," a Twitter user said this week. Reddit users have posted about shelves that were empty for months.
According to tampon manufacturers, the shortage is caused by a combination of transportation bottlenecks and staffing issues in factories, as well as rising prices of key raw materials.
Walgreens, Target, and CVS all stated to NPR in statements that they knew of limited supplies at certain stores. According to a spokesperson for CVS, the company has not been able supply the required quantity of tampons since last week. Both companies stated that they are working with tampon manufacturers to replenish stock in stores as quickly as possible.
Walgreens stated that it may have shortages in certain brands "while we navigate the supply disruption", but that its website has the most current store-level inventory.
Dana Marlowe is the founder of I Support the Girls. This organization provides menstrual products to people in economic hardship.
Marlowe claims that her group has experienced a significant drop in tampon donation in recent months. This year, the organization received half the number of tampons compared to last year, and more than 60% less than 2020.
Marlowe stated to NPR, "Our shelves are bare."
NPR was told by Procter & Gamble that the supply problem with Tampax products is temporary. They also said that the Tampax team is producing tampons 24 hours a day to meet increased demand.
P&G, the largest market share for menstrual product, stated in April's earnings call that transporting and sourcing raw materials for menstrual products as well as getting them on trucks to retailers "continues be expensive and highly volatile."
Another supply chain problem is that women bear the brunt of the costs, as mothers struggle with formula shortages to feed their children.
Time reported the tampon crisis last week. It noted that it has lasted longer than other shortages like cleaning supplies and toilet paper early in the pandemic. According to the magazine, most of the decision-makers in the supply chain as well as CEOs of manufacturers are men.
Inflation is also making Tampons more expensive. P&G announced in April that they had increased the prices of feminine care products one year ago. However, ongoing supply chain constraints have led to an additional price increase on these products. This will take effect in mid-July.
Bloomberg reported that the average price of tampons increased by almost 10% over the past year, citing NielsenIQ data. This was due to rising materials costs. Tampons are made of cotton, rayon and fluff pulp. They were in high demand during the pandemic. The supply of these goods was also restricted by extreme drought in Texas, high diesel prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Marlowe, founder of I Support The Girls, stated that it is difficult to get national attention to the problem of scarcity and to take action. She said that it is the one that most affects vulnerable groups.
She said she's encountered women who lack the financial resources to make multiple trips to the grocery store and resort to unsafe options. She said that they are using cardboard, duct tape, ripped sheets, and other unsanitary products.