Media Release

5.8 million Australians struggle to buy essentials

        • 1 in 3 (30%) Australians have been unable to buy essentials
        • Toilet paper, hand sanitiser and rice were among the most difficult items to come by
        • "Where to buy" guides for household essentials

11 August 2020, Sydney, Australia – Weeks after the panic buying frenzy first hit supermarkets, Australians are once again feeling the sting of shopping shortages, according to new research by Finder, Australia's most visited comparison site.

A recent Finder survey of 1,007 Australians found that 1 in 3 (30%) shoppers have been unable to buy essential items – this is equivalent to 5.8 million Aussies leaving the shops empty handed.

The research showed that 1 in 5 (19%) Australians struggled to buy toilet paper or tissues when they visited the supermarket.

Hand sanitiser and soap also proved hard to come by with 1 in 7 (15%) unable to find these at the shops.

Bessie Hassan, personal finance expert at Finder, said that fear of a second wave is putting an unnecessary strain on supermarket stock levels.

"As the shelves start to empty people feel the need to stock up on essentials, which turns consumers' fears of shortages into a self-fulfilling prophecy."

"Many supermarkets are not designed to handle the purchase volume we are seeing from panic buyers.

"If you are feeling the need to stock up, look to retailers like Costco or Amazon that are set up to offer bulk purchase options, rather than purchasing en masse from a supermarket," she said.

Unsurprisingly, Victoria has been the worst affected by this newest wave of panic buying with 38% saying that they have been unable to buy something on their shopping list.

Further Finder research shows that there has been a dramatic increase in Aussies' interest in face masks.

On the day it was announced that face masks would be compulsory in parts of Victoria, Finder witnessed a 480% spike in facemask traffic in just 24 hours – illustrating how quickly demand for products can shift during the pandemic.

"Face masks have become essential for many Aussies – not just Victorians," Hassan said.

"It's often better to be safe than sorry. If you are after that added layer of precaution check out Finder's comprehensive list of stores with face masks in stock."

Hassan also urges consumers to look beyond traditional retailers if they're struggling to get what they need.

"As stock continues to fly off the shelves, online retailers are working around the clock to meet consumers' needs, so it is worth shopping around to ensure you have access to all your essentials.

"Sadly, these spikes in demand have resulted in price gouging from some businesses. If you opt to shop online, make sure you compare prices before finalising your purchase.

"It's crucial to keep security front of mind whenever you shop online. Look for the padlock symbol in the URL bar before entering any payment details and check that a seller is reputable before you buy," she said.

Finder has created a number of "Where to buy" guides to help Aussies find what they need during this time. You can find these in the tips section below.

Have you been unable to buy any of the following in the past two weeks?

Heater typeDaily running cost (8 hrs)
Toilet paper/tissues19%
Hand sanitiser/soap15%
Dry food (rice etc)12%
Fresh food10%
Toiletries aside from toilet paper/soap8%
No, I have not70%, and other sources (ABS, etc)

"Where to buy" guides for household essentials

Where to buy face masks online. Current government advice is that face masks are now mandatory for everyone in Victoria, and suggested for those in NSW when social distancing is difficult. This guide is updated regularly by our team to reflect which brands have masks in stock.

Where to buy hand sanitiser online. Look for alcohol-based hand sanitisers with 60–95% ethanol or isopropanol as they're indicated to be the most effective against viruses and bacteria, according to NPS MedicineWise.

Where to buy groceries online. Fortunately, supermarkets aren't the only place you can do your weekly shop now. Be sure to check prices across retailers so you know you're getting the best deal.


For further information


The information in this release is accurate as of the date published, but rates, fees and other product features may have changed. Please see updated product information on's review pages for the current correct values.

About Finder

Every month 2.6 million unique visitors turn to Finder to save money and time, and to make important life choices. We compare virtually everything from credit cards, phone plans, health insurance, travel deals and much more.

Our free service is 100% independently-owned by three Australians: Fred Schebesta, Frank Restuccia and Jeremy Cabral. Since launching in 2006, Finder has helped Aussies find what they need from 1,800+ brands across 100+ categories.

We continue to expand and launch around the globe, and now have offices in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Poland and the Philippines. For further information visit

12.6 million average unique monthly audience (June- September 2019), Nielsen Digital Panel

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