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CHICAGO — Can’t find what you’re looking for at the grocery store? You’re not alone.

Locals who suspect COVID-19 has something to do with empty shelves, consumer experts say the pandemic is causing global supply chain disruptions, leading to shortages at grocery stores across Chicago.   

“It’s pretty interesting to see shelves empty and items that I’d usually expect to be there not there anymore,” Grocery shopper Ian Odermatt said. “I’ve never experienced this before.”  

Grocery shopper Jason Adrian says the only thing he noticed missing at a local Jewel-Osco is items in the produce aisle. “There’s no spinach.” 

Rob Karr, President & CEO at Illinois Retail Merchants Association, says, “It all comes down to Covid and I know it sounds like a tired excuse, but it’s Covid.” 

Karr says the pandemic has caused global supply chain disruptions such as:

  • Congestion at ports   
  • A shortage of truck drivers   
  • A scarcity of service workers  

“We’re seeing more people away from work in every step of the supply chain than we’ve ever seen and I think it’s important to realize that retail is at the end of that supply chain,” Karr said.  

The consumer brands association says grocery stores typically have 5% of items out of stock at any given time. Now, those numbers have jumped to 15%. 

“We’re all getting the items we need to live. We may not get them exactly when we want them, we might have to wait a day or two, but we are getting them,” Karr said.  

Still, the sight of empty shelves is leading to consumer concern – a recent survey showed 71% of grocery store customers are somewhat or very concerned about shortages. As a result, some major retailers like Walmart and Costco have imposed “temporary item limits” for products in short supply.   

In the meantime, experts say the best advice for consumers is to bring patience to the places you purchase groceries.

“You’ve got to change what you’ve been buying,” Adrian said. “We’ve changed what we normally get, absolutely.”