Sales of cleaning products are skyrocketing during the pandemic, but Procter & Gamble is having to educate shoppers who don't know what actually works

Mr. Clean
  • Procter & Gamble reported on Thursday that net sales were up 4% for the quarter and 5% for the fiscal year.
  • Home care sales increased more than 30%, driven by an increase in consumer demand for home cleaning and dishwashing products. Procter & Gamble owns brands like Tide, Mr. Clean, Dawn and Comet.
  • Surface contact was thought to be a primary virus transmission mode earlier in the pandemic, and cleaning products were out of stock at many retailers.

Procter & Gamble reported on Thursday that net sales were up 4% for the quarter and 5% for the fiscal year. The quarter results were driven by fabric and home care sales, which includes brands like Tide, Mr. Clean, Dawn and Febreze, increased more than 14%. Within that category, home care increased 30%, "driven by the increased consumer demand for home cleaning and dishwashing products," according to the press release.

This major increase in sales aligns with early information on COVID-19 transmission prevention, when scientists thought the virus was mostly being passed through surface contact. When consumers first entered into lockdown in March, many were advised by experts that the virus can live on certain surfaces for days, resulting in some engaging in intensive grocery washing, developing extreme wipe-down sanitization routines for their homes, and washing their clothes more frequently. At the time, cleaning products were extremely difficult to find and third-party sellers were listing cleaning products on Amazon for exorbitant prices.

However in recent months, it has become increasingly understood that the primary mode of coronavirus transmission is airborne. In May, the CDC updated its guidelines to note that surface contact is not thought to be the main source of coronavirus transmission. On July 9, the W.H.O. confirmed growing evidence that the virus is airborne and it's now accepted that coronavirus aerosols (particles dispersed in the air) are the main source of transmission and that mask wearing and social distancing are of huge importance to containing the virus. But cleaning products are still in high demand. On July 24, CNBC reported that disinfecting wipes remain difficult to to find in stores. Advertisement

Procter & Gamble's strong quarter isn't unexpected, as consumers have been spending far more time at home, and cooking more often, which means more cleaning overall. For some consumers, extreme cleaning will still make them feel better about the virus, even if there isn't much science backing their behavior.

P&G noted during the fourth quarter earnings call the importance of educational advertising in delivering an immediate sales lift, including both TV ads and in-store materials as effective ways of transmitting information about COVID-19 prevention in relation to the brand's products. However, experts and consumers alike are essentially building a plane while flying it, as they attempt to curb the virus while new information about transmission and prevention continually offers course corrections. P&G expects organic sales growth in the range of 2 to 4% for the 2021 fiscal year.

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