By: Elizabeth Wright | Purchasing Specialist / Bridget Halpain | Category Manager

After COVID-19 devastated 2020, we are all now trying to get back to “normal” in 2021. What will our new normal look like? Will it include a normal vacation, normal birthday parties, normal family get-togethers? With vaccines rolling out in 2021, we are all hoping that we can get back to whatever “normal” is. However, there are still things we will struggle to obtain in sufficient quantities: toilet paper, sanitizer wipes, gloves, and masks will continue to be hard to come by in the coming years after a full 12 months of production and shipping issues from across the sea.

Below is an overview provided by one of our glove suppliers: things we should expect to see in the glove market, and what will be affecting the market in 2021 and likely in the years to come.

  • Worldwide demand for single-use gloves continues to outpace supply
    • We are seeing 3x pre-COVID demand
  • Chinese New Year was February 12, 2021
    • This holiday shuts down the SE Asian economy for three weeks every year
  • COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon
    • Having a vaccine is very different from eradicating the disease

There was a fresh outbreak of COVID-19 in Hebei Province, China, in January 2021. This province has been on lockdown since mid-January, according to National Public Radio.

  • Hebei is one of the largest regions producing nitrile and vinyl gloves
    • No shipping in or out of this province; raw materials cannot get in, and finished products cannot get out

US Customs and Border Patrol has also put a ban on the world’s largest producer of disposable gloves, Top Gloves, for suspected forced labor—making it that much harder to get nitrile gloves into the US. Top Gloves has been working to fight this ban since October 2020, but Jones Day reports no movement on the part of the US to remove this ban. In addition to border control, the freight system has faced various other struggles getting products across the ocean and to distribution centers across the US.

  • Dozens of vessels spent 14+ days waiting to dock after traveling from Asia to North America
  • Containers are taking 30 days to get from LA to Chicago
  • As of January 20, nearly 700 dockworkers were COVID-19 positive, according to the LA Times

What gloves can we get in the meantime to support our c-stores?

  • The Stretch Hybrid Gloves are more cost-effective and are slightly easier to provide to our customers
  • K&G has tested them at the c-store level and has started to roll them out to their stores in place of powder-free nitrile gloves

In summary, international transport and production will continue to be a struggle in 2021. The vaccines offer hope, but they will not solve all the world’s problems in a day. Whatever the new normal is, make washing your hands and wearing your mask a part of it.