Man wearing a face mask washes his hands

Wash Your Hands, Wear a Mask, Boost the Economy

8 min read • May 19, 2021 • Kayla Voigt

Wash your hands. Wear a mask. 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve repeated those 2 mantras again and again. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) outlines guidelines on handwashing, sanitizing homes and offices, operating in public spaces, and more. With mask mandates and the COVID-19 pandemic far from over, it’s clear that hygiene has become the most important element of any business operation

For hygiene product suppliers, small business owners, and custodians and janitorial services, COVID-19 created unprecedented demand. Here’s how the hygiene market cleans up in 3 sectors.

A Cleaning Product Boom

As businesses and households alike look to comply with CDC guidelines and protect themselves, staff, and families, demand for cleaning products has gone through the roof. Procter & Gamble, which owns brands like Mr. Clean, Dawn, Febreze, Downy, and Safeguard, saw sales of home care products rise by 30% or more during the pandemic. 

“This whole pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the importance behind regular cleaning and disinfection,” Ailene Grego, president and CEO of janitorial supplier SouthEast Link, told BizJournals. “I think everybody’s cleaning and disinfection processes will change for the better.”

In March 2020, demand for these products decimated supermarket and big box retailer shelves. Hand sanitizers soared by 73% in dollar value in the 4 weeks ending Feb. 22 compared with the same period in 2019. Sales of face masks jumped by 319%, aerosol disinfectants rose 47%, and thermometers increased 32%

Brands like Clorox and Lysol also saw incredible growth, increasing supply capacity and expanding operations during a time when the majority of the economy went into free-fall. “We’re pumping out record volumes from our plants and external manufacturers, but we are faced with a demand that is literally 5 times what we normally encounter,” Clorox Co. chief supply officer Andy Mowery told BizJournals. “We’re making a lot more than we ever imagined we could.”

The hygiene revolution is here to stay. Those same consumer goods remain in demand. Hand sanitizers alone represent tremendous growth, with the global hand hygiene market set to reach $8.76 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 9%.

This Year’s Hottest Accessory? A Face Mask

With face masks still required in schools and other public places, it’s likely consumers will continue to stock up. This new accessory created a ripple effect across multiple sectors, including at fabric stores and craft stores for homemade masks, Etsy sales, and across major retailers.

Etsy sales doubled in April thanks to masks, with more than 12 million sold (about $133 million in sales.) “It was like waking up and discovering it was Cyber Monday, except everyone in the world just wanted one product and that product was in extremely limited supply,” Etsy CEO Josh Silverman told investors

Some high-end fashion designers have used face masks to raise money for charity or let their creative juices flow. “I started thinking about our culture and how I could add a slight bit of normalcy to people’s lives that are anything but normal right now,” Alia Meagan, founder of Courtyard LA, told Forbes. “Knowing I will lighten someone’s mood and the strangers they encounter during a pandemic will be forever one of my life’s greatest achievements.” 

 

 

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Major retailers are in on the game, too. Disney, Gap, Madewell, Old Navy, and more created cloth masks to meet the demand. Now consumers can sport their favorite brands on their faces, too. Some brands, like Under Armour, specifically designed masks for working out. “As soon as we finalized the design of our face mask for PPE, we dove straight into the innovation process of optimizing a mask for performance,” Kyle Blakely, VP of Materials Innovation at Under Armour, said in a press release. “We knew our athletes would need us to come through quickly with a solve to aid their return to training, one that would put health and safety first and adhere to current CDC guidelines.”

Making Offices Safer to Work In

Even after the pandemic, employee preferences have changed. The biggest? Making offices and businesses safer and more hygienic for everyone.  52.9% of Americans believe open offices will increase the spread of COVID-19, and 41% think their office will be a “hotbed of infection.” 

As you plan on bringing your employees back to work, you’ll need to evaluate every aspect of your office plans because your employees expect better.  “Providing the safest work environment is table stakes,” Liane Hornsey, Chief People Officer at Palo Alto Networks, told Fortune. “We’ve made many improvements, from creating a touchless environment in common areas to implementing new technologies and equipment that boost air quality. We are continuing to reimagine our facilities as we prepare for an office that will once again bring us all together.” 

Short-term office changes look like:

  • Creating more space and dividers between workstations
  • Adding traffic lanes, dividers, or other temporary solutions that decrease crowds
  • Using scheduling software for conference rooms and office floors
  • Including sanitization stations, including handwashing stations, in major areas
  • Pre-work surveys, online check-ins, and temperature checks

But long-term, you’ll need to think about:

  • More flexibility and privacy for employees and reducing capacity in multi-purpose spaces
  • Utilizing more indoor-outdoor spaces, including roof decks, balconies, and green spaces 
  • Introducing more touchless technology, like automatic doors, voice-activated elevators, and motion-activated faucets and kitchen appliances

Facilitating all of these changes means more investment in office managers, custodial and janitorial staff, cleaning supplies, sanitization supplies, and leasing/construction. Continue to evaluate your cleaning plans and staff, scheduling, and touchless technology investments, and how your employees feel about returning to work—because we’re not going back to the way things were anytime soon.

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Kayla Voigt

Always in search of adventure, Kayla hails from Hopkinton, MA, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can find her at the summit of a mountain or digging in to a big bowl of pasta when she's not writing. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.