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Bullwhip Effect: The pandemic's impact on consumer product demand

Changes in spending habits caused by the pandemic is leading to supply chain uncertainty.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Have you ever heard of the Bullwhip Effect?

It's a supply chain problem, likely impacting your coronavirus pandemic shopping experience. 

"It's just unknown demand," says Jack Ampuja, the executive director of the Supply Chain Center of Excellence at Niagara University. 

"The demand is either much higher than we thought or it's much lower, but it's extremely difficult to tell what's happening," Ampuja added. 

Ampuja says the Bullwhip Effect is impacting a lot of industries that are still trying to keep with pandemic spending. 

When manufacturers can't keep up with an unexpected demand for their product(s), it leads to shipping and delivery delays. 

"The demand has changed for so many products, and who would have known 18 months ago that this was going to happen? If people are home, what are they going to buy? Nobody really knew for sure," Ampuja said. 

"We've talked previously about consumer products, paper goods, wipes, and things like that where there's been a big skew in demand. With food products, retail products are way up because people are buying more retail and the food service products."

Ampuja says that could be a reason certain items are missing on store shelves, or an appliance or piece of furniture you purchased takes weeks, or even months to be delivered, as opposed to just a few days before the pandemic began. 

When it comes to things getting back to normal, Ampuja says domestic consumer goods will rebound faster than larger items than are generally not made in the United States and require more movement around the world.