Clorox says retail shelves will not be fully stocked with its popular wipes and other disinfectant cleaners used to combat COVID-19 until this summer.
“We think that there’s going to be substantial improvement this summer,” Clorox chairman and CEO Benno Dorer told Yahoo Finance in an interview. “It’s going to be touch and go until then, unfortunately.”
Shoppers have become increasingly frustrated as they scour the internet and local stores for Lysol sprays and Clorox wipes, only to find shelves picked clean after households stocked up on cleaning products to protect against infection, especially in COVID-19 hot zones.
Manufacturers like Clorox were not prepared for skyrocketing demand in a sleepy sector with reliably steady sales that usually only fluctuate during flu season.
On a third-quarter earnings call last week, Dorer told analysts Clorox saw demand for disinfectant products increase more than 500%.
"Demand has been clearly unprecedented, and we're in uncharted territory for our supply chain, in particular, in disinfecting products," he said.
Products such as Clorox 4-in-1 Disinfecting Spray and Lysol Disinfectant Spray are among the products that the Environmental Protection Agency says likely protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
Disinfectant manufacturers have cranked up production, narrowed the number of products they make and have invested in increased capacity to try to catch up with skyrocketing demand.
"To try and meet demand to the greatest extent possible, we've been running our cleaning and disinfecting product plants 24/7," Dorer told analysts last week. "To increase output, we've accessed third-party supply sources focused on manufacturing of disinfecting products and those that can be supplied most quickly, and we've been partnering with suppliers and retailers to get product where it is needed the most."
Tom Derry, CEO of the Institute for Supply Management, told USA TODAY last month that shoppers would not be able to easily buy disinfectant wipes and other cleaning products again until June. But, he predicted, intermittent shortages could persist for months.
Last week Clorox reported that third-quarter sales rose 15%, buoyed by purchases of bleach, wipes and other cleaning products. The company's cleaning segment, which includes disinfectant wipes, bleach and Pine-Sol, saw sales growth of 32%, the company reported.