Going back to school amid COVID-19 outbreaks means uncertainty and fear for students and teachers, but staying home presents problems too.


It’s not just pepperoni, coins and Clorox wipes that are hard to find lately.

As many parents are finding out, there are also shortages on desks and chairs in some parts of the nation with more students starting the school year virtually. Select office furniture is in short supply or backordered depending on price, region and item.

It’s the latest in a long list of COVID-19 fueled shortages that started with toilet paper, hand sanitizer and face masks.

“Supply and demand have been at tremendous odds this year, and back-to-school is no different,” said Sarah Hofstetter, president of analytics company Profitero. “The biggest difference is that it’s easier to find crayons and whiteboards than it is to find the less obvious yet most necessary items for home schooling or hybrid learning, like desks for students.”

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From July 11 to Aug. 15, Profitero found the search rank on Amazon for “desk” rose 600% to the No. 2 spot coming in behind face mask. The term “kids desk” rose 3783% and “computer desk” is up 257% on Amazon, according to Profitero.

USA TODAY searched for children’s desks on several websites including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Wayfair, Staples, Office Depot and Ikea Friday and many options were out-of-stock or not expected to ship for weeks to months. There were available desks but many may be larger and pricier than a basic desk or what kids need.

Ikea, in a statement to USA TODAY, said it’s experiencing some supply delays due to to the impact of the pandemic.

“During this time, we encourage customers to check online or download the IKEA app to determine product availability in their local store prior to their visit,” Ikea said in its statement. “Due to system updates and high demand, there is a chance that an item with low stock may not be available for purchase.”


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Alternative ways to find a desk

Shari Loveless, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, improvised on a setup for her daughter Aubrianna, who is starting kindergarten virtually.

Loveless said she searched for desks at Walmart, Amazon, Target and Wayfair but found only pricey desks several of which wouldn’t be delivered until October. Instead, she turned a TV stand a friend was selling into a desk.

“She loves it. And the chair fits underneath when not using,” Loveless said. “But a lot of people are saying TV stands are selling out now.”

Borrowing furniture from family or friends is a good option, said Kumiko Love, founder of The Budget Mom and a financial counselor. She also suggests looking on online resale websites like OfferUp, eBay and Facebook Marketplace.

“If you have some extra time and are willing to put in a little elbow grease, consider building your own desk,” Love said.

Nick Huzar, CEO and co-founder of OfferUp, said office desks were the second most searched term on the online marketplace in July.

“Right now, we are seeing a surge in demand for desks as parents prepare their students for virtual learning, and many Americans continue working from home,” Huzar told USA TODAY. “We’ve also seen a triple-digit increase in searches for kids’ desks and increases for school and office supplies.”

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Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

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