Disinfectant Craze Rages On for Covid-Skittish U.S. Consumers
(Bloomberg) -- You don’t really need to deep-clean surfaces to stay safe from the coronavirus, but many U.S. consumers still aren’t taking any chances.
Shoppers bought 15% more home-cleaning items such as liquid and spray disinfectants last year compared to in 2019, according to data from market research firm IRI. While sales slipped from 2020’s blowout figures in both dollar terms and by volume, the trends suggest sanitizing has become ingrained in everyday routines, benefiting companies like Clorox Co., Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc and Procter & Gamble Co.
P&G said Wednesday that organic sales in its home-care division rose in the low single digits last quarter even after a “high base period” a year ago when there was strong pandemic-driven demand for cleaning products. Across the industry, it’s likely sales “will land on an elevated level” even after infections subside, JPMorgan Chase & Co. consumer goods analyst Andrea Teixeira said an interview.
Compared with early 2020, there’s now less need to hoard cleaning products since supply constraints have eased. Only 5.5% of home disinfectant items were out of stock in the U.S. at the end of 2021, compared with about 19% a year earlier, according to Euromonitor e-commerce data retrieved Jan. 12.
Covid-19 is mainly spread by breathing in droplets containing the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More rarely, infection can be caused by contact with contaminated surfaces -- yet consumers keep trying to wipe off germs. Among 1,000 adults surveyed by the American Cleaning Institute in September, 83% said they were likely to frequently use hand sanitizer and disinfect high-touch surfaces over the next six months.
The obsession with cleaning may be helping ward off other illnesses. Disinfecting can help stop the spread of other germs such as the flu, according to the CDC.
As people return to offices and entertainment venues, those places will also have to purchase more cleaning supplies to meet customers’ expectations for cleanliness, according to Morningstar Inc. analyst Erin Lash.
P&G along with Clorox, which makes products from disinfectant wipes to bleach, and Reckitt, whose brands include Lysol and Dettol, have raised prices in several segments of their businesses amid higher costs of commodities and transportation. Consumer appetite hasn’t wavered much so far, but analysts will be on the lookout during the upcoming earnings season for any signs that shoppers are switching to cheaper products.
“Consumers are starting to feel this now and digest it a bit, so it’s going to be interesting to see if there’s some trade-down to lower-priced brands, to private label or, in the case of certain categories, trade-out altogether,” Jefferies LLC research analyst Kevin Grundy said in an interview.
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