DUCT TAPE MAKERS SWING INTO HIGH GEAR
By Gary Strauss, USA TODAY
Duct tape manufacturers are quintupling production to meet demand from a skittish U.S. public intent on protecting homes from terrorists.
Consumers have snapped up the ubiquitous adhesive since Monday, when federal authorities listed it among key products that could provide protection against chemical or biological attack.
Manco, which supplies Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Ace Hardware under the Duck brand, will boost production at its Hickory, N.C., factory this weekend, adding six shifts. Rival Nashua, which supplies Home Depot, Costco and Auto Zone, began shifting production from industrial tapes to consumer products at its Franklin, Ky., plant Thursday.
"Huge demand started on the East Coast Monday, and it has rolled across the rest of the country as the week wore on," says Gary Holmes, spokesman for Nashua parent Tyco International.
"Sales are unbelievable," says Tom Taylor, president of Home Depot's Eastern division, a 650-store network from Maine to Florida. "There's an incredible rush for duct tape in major markets."
Home Depot began poaching stores in other markets Tuesday and also boosted orders from vendors. On Wednesday, 26 trucks chocked with duct tape and plastic sheeting began resupplying depleted Washington, D.C., and New York stores.
Home Depot outlets in those markets are posting duct tape sales increases of up to 1,000%. As far south as Miami, sales of protective supplies are up 200% to 600%, Taylor says.
Demand also is strong for sheeting, flashlights, batteries and knives amid stepped up security since Friday, when the terrorism threat level was raised to orange, or "high."
Entrepreneurs, using security as a marketing tool, are selling duct tape on Internet auction site eBay.
Duct tape and sheeting is recommended to seal vents, windows and other openings from chemical and biological fallout. Whether that can adequately protect consumers is open to debate; stocking up may be more for soothing jittery souls.
"We don't think anything's going to happen, but it's better to be safe than sorry," says Melissa Jackson of Tulsa, who bought 11 rolls of duct tape.
The adhesive was developed for military use during World War II as a container sealant made from duck cloth. Following the war, it became better known as duct tape for widespread use in sealing ventilation ducts. These days, it's an all-purpose household item with uses as varied as wart removal and emergency repairs. Each year, $300 million worth of duct tape is sold in the USA.
How long will demand last? "When it's a hurricane, we can predict how long," Taylor says. "But this? We're in uncharted territory."