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Panic Buying of Consumer Goods and Its Impact on Discounted Cash Flow Valuation

publication date: Mar 15, 2020
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Image: Sam’s Club (Crystal Lake, IL), March 14. Water and toilet paper continue to be completely sold out at most big box retailers as COVID-19 panic buying of consumer goods continues to spread. Fear-induced purchases in the US have also helped drive up investor sentiment toward consumer staples names with a large domestic presence. We caution, however, that near-term earnings bumps emanating from “stockpiling” have little impact on a company’s intrinsic value, which is derived more from normalized conditions, and in most cases, the panic buying of consumer goods is merely pulling demand forward.

“You know what’s disappearing from the supermarket shelves? Toilet paper…There’s an acute shortage of toilet paper in the United States.” – Johnny Carson, in 1973, causing a month-long shortage of toilet paper in the US at the time. The spread of COVID-19 is creating a similar panic as consumers stock up on just about everything from toilet paper to canned goods to hand sanitizer.

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