Consumers Buying More Disinfectants and Hand Sanitizers Amid Ebola News

Sales Rise Despite Fact U.S. Only Has Two Confirmed Cases; Enterovirus Also a Factor

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The U.S. only has two confirmed cases of Ebola transmission in the U.S., but growing headlines surrounding the outbreak centered in West Africa appears to be fueling robust sales of disinfectants and hand sanitizers here.

Hand sanitizer sales were up nearly 8% for the four weeks ended Sept. 7, according to retail data from IRI, a reversal from a 2% decline for the 52 weeks ending then and better than the declines or low-single-digit increases seen for other types of soap.

Disinfectant sales were up 12.9% for the four and 12-week periods ended Sept. 27, according to Nielsen data from Deutsche Bank, a sharper growth rate than the 8% seen over 52 weeks. That's despite a lack of any widespread flooding or other natural disasters that would usually explain such an increase.

Clorox Co. led the surge in disinfectants, with sales up 28% in the most recent available four weeks wthout any new major advertising behind the products. A spokeswoman declined to explain the growth, saying the company is in its quiet period prior to earnings release later this month.

Clorox has sent relief supplies to West Africa and has been in contact with hospitals and other health-care institutions about the Centers for Disease Control prevention and disinfection protocols, she said.

News of the outbreak of a new strain of enterovirus late this summer may also have boosted sales of sanitizers and disinfectants, said Bernstein Research analyst Ali Dibadj.

"It's perverse that the only tailwind for [household and personal care marketers] right now is the pickup in disease," Mr. Dibadj said.

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