As Americans stock up on food to get through the coronavirus lockdown, freezers have become one of the nation’s most sought-after – and scarce – supplies.
The chilling reality: Most freezer chests and deep freezers are either sold out or on backorder for several months at major retailers including Lowe’s, Home Depot and Best Buy.
Nick Huzar, CEO and co-founder of OfferUp, said the online marketplace has seen 50% to 100% increases for products including appliances, home and garden, toys and sporting goods.
“As people purchase more food to freeze and reduce their trips outside, we’ve seen double-digit increases in the number of freezers posted and more than twice the volume of freezers sold compared to the same time last year,” Huzar said.
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Kendall Meza, of Clute, Texas, said she didn’t get in on the stocking up for toilet paper craze. She was more focused on food and in January decided she wanted an extra freezer as she closely followed the coronavirus news from China.
But, she said, it took some effort to convince her husband, Tino.
“I told him we can’t really afford to spend the money right now … But it’s a necessity because we need to stock now and not go back to the store,” Meza said.
In early March as coronavirus spread, the Mezas got a freezer at Lowe’s and are stocked up with bread, milk and other frozen foods.
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Around the same time, Allyson Scrivani was trying to get a freezer in New York.
After finding Home Depot and Lowe’s were sold out, Scrivani ordered a freezer from Best Buy, which was expected to be ready in days for pickup. She’s still waiting after delay after delay.
“I got really excited thinking I scored and I was going to get it in a few days, but clearly that didn’t happen,” said Scrivani, who temporarily moved from her Yonkers, New York, apartment to a small house in the Catskills with her 2-year-old son Patrick for safety.
Being in the Catskills, grocery shopping choices are limited and she said delivery isn’t an option. A trip to Walmart is a 40-minute drive.
“I wanted to avoid going out to the store as much as possible,” Scrivani said. “So my goal was to get a lot of fresh produce and cook and freeze it, which I still have but I have zero freezer space.”
Best Buy recently announced that it has suspended installations, haul-aways and repairs for large items like refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers and TVs. The items are being offered with free doorstep delivery.
“We are seeing a surge in demand across the country for products that people need to work or learn from home, as well as those products that allow people to refrigerate or freeze food,” Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said in a statement. “As we meet the demand for these necessities, we are adjusting how we operate in many ways to improve safety.”
Lowe’s officials also say that they’ve seen increased demand for freezers and are working around the clock to replenish inventory while Walmart has seen dramatic increases in sales of plasticware storage, vacuum seal machines and accessories.
“As customers are stocking up on bulk food products, they need a place to store it,” Lowe’s president and CEO Marvin Ellison said in a recent interview with USA TODAY.
For shoppers with space to spare, many refrigerators were still in stock Friday at major retailers.
Scrivani still wants the freezer and said Best Buy said in an email that April 21 is the cutoff before the order is canceled.
“We’re not canceling the order unless they cancel the order,” she said.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko