Demand for Hand Sanitizer and Disinfecting Wipes Spikes Amid Coronavirus Scare

'Sales went through the roof'

hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes chart
Data suggests both online sales and searches for the products are up. Sources: Getty Images
Headshot of Paul Hiebert

Key insight:

As news of the coronavirus continues to dominate headlines, impacting markets and conferences alike, new numbers show consumer demand for hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes has surged.

Figures from market research firm Rakuten Intelligence reveal that in terms of sheer dollar amount, U.S. online sales of liquid hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes increased 202% year-on-year between January 2019 and January 2020. Last month, consumers spent more money on these products online than any month in at least the past two years.

In January, U.S. online searches for “hand sanitizer,” along with related keywords and phrases, hit 538,000, according to data from market intelligence company SimilarWeb. That’s 23% higher than the monthly average over the past 12 months. Likewise, U.S. searches for “disinfectant wipes” and similar phrases in January reached 379,000—14% higher than average.

On a global scale, SimilarWeb numbers reveal January 2020 searches for “hand sanitizer” climbed to 2.8 million (87% higher than average), while “disinfectant wipes” rose to 1.1 million (38% higher than average) as compared to the monthly average over the last 12 months.

A spokesperson from Touchland, a company that debuted in late 2018 and sells colorful bottles of hand sanitizer online and through retailers such as Ulta Beauty and Urban Outfitters, told Adweek that 2020 YTD sales are up nearly 675% compared to the same time last year.

“Sales went through the roof,” said Ned MacPherson, head of growth at Touchland, adding that while news of the coronavirus has helped fuel the spike in demand, the company has positioned itself for such an event through SEO optimization.

“We have an opportunity and, frankly, we were super prepared,” he said.

MacPherson also said that while Touchland has typically sold around four units per individual order, it is currently averaging closer to 11 per order.

“What we’re seeing is that people are coming to the site and they are stocking up,” he said. “They’re buying huge amounts for, I’m imagining, themselves, their family.”

Additional figures from SimilarWeb show that websites for Purell, Bath & Body Works and Amazon have received a sizable chunk of organic traffic from people searching for “hand sanitizer” and other related phrases.

While Purell declined to disclose financial information, Samantha Williams, corporate communications senior director at Purell’s parent company GOJO Industries, told Adweek: “We believe we are in a strong supply position and are working with our customers to ensure they have the products they need.”

A page on GOJO’s website states that Purell’s line of surface disinfectants “can be used against Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) when used in accordance with the directions for use and a 1-minute contact time on hard, nonporous surfaces.”

In late January, an analyst at financial firm Evercore noted that Bath & Body Works could see a bump in sales of its soaps and hand sanitizers as more consumers look to protect themselves, reported CNBC.

While no company Adweek spoke with claimed its products killed the coronavirus, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website that to avoid the spread of the disease, consumers should “clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe,” and if soap and water are not available to wash one’s hands, “use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.” According to each company’s respective website, Touchland’s hand sanitizers contain 67% alcohol, while Purell’s contain 70% alcohol.

Not all companies have yet seen a tangible bump. Stacey Grier, CMO of the Clorox Company, said it’s too early to see how the coronavirus is impacting sales.

“What we’re focused on now is ensuring our employees and consumers are aware of tips and guidelines on prevention,” she said.

Clorox’s website lists its disinfecting wipes, along with its Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach spray bottle and Regular Bleach jug, as items people can use to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are providing educational information on our website and responding to people on social media regarding prevention tips,” Grier said when asked how, if at all, Clorox is approaching the coronavirus from a marketing standpoint. “What we don’t do is market to fear.”

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@hiebertpaul Paul Hiebert is a CPG reporter at Adweek, where he focuses on data-driven stories that help illustrate changes in consumer behavior and sentiment.