Grooming standards have been quick to slip. Weeks into lockdown the coronavirus pandemic is starting to influence individual hygiene standards and personal care routines.
According to the consumer goods team at Unilever, as large numbers of individuals work from home, people are showering less often, skipping haircuts, and dropping deodorant.
Graeme Pitkethly, Unilever’s chief financial officer, noted a quarter of personal care activities, such as showering, hairstyling, and the use of skincare products and antiperspirants, related to people preparing to for work or college, was in decline. Homeworking was leading to a decrease in demand for products including razors, shampoo, and deodorant.
In results released last week, Unilever stated lockdowns had negatively impacted its hair care business in China and India, while skincare sales were also down.
Unilever own a number of personal care brands such as Dove soap, Lynx, and Sure deodorants as well as Toni & Guy hair care and styling products.
Pitkethly expected changes in consumer behavior and spending patterns to persist as lockdowns continued and business adjusted to a new normality.
He claimed Unilever believed consumers were most likely to spend “more time at home, more time in food preparation– which benefits us – as well as perhaps less personal care events, this nesting suggestion”.
Unilever reported an dramatic increase in sales of family cleansing products such as Cif cleaners and Domestos bleach, both of which reported double-digit sales growth in the first quarter.
Alan Jope, Unilever president, added that while “people are shaving much less”, however a move to online shopping would likely favor direct-to-consumer brands such as Unilever-owned Dollar Shave Club.
“We are almost certainly going into a period of low economic growth and we’ll adjust to that by prioritizing the value-for-money products in our portfolio; we’re going to be dealing with that for a couple of years,” he said.
“Secondly, there is no doubt people’s concern about [household] hygiene has increased . . . and the shift to online digital consumption of media and online shopping is something that will be permanent. We will adjust our approach to reflect that.”
Unilever has been restructuring factories to produce hand sanitizer in more than 30 sites all over the world, including what had been a “massive” deodorant factory in the UK; it has also launched Lifebuoy soap in 43 new markets.
Last Wednesday the firm reported static sales growth in the first quarter, 3.1 percent below last year and below expectations.
The weak numbers from Unilever contrasted with competitors such as Procter & Gamble, which recently reported its biggest quarterly US sales improvement in years. Unilever’s turnover was up 0.2 percent to ₤ 12.4 billion throughout the quarter.
Pitkethly claimed the indicators from China, which is resuming activity within certain industries with its economy, showed how social adjustments were proceeding.
“About 70 percent or so of restaurants that had closed in lockdown have opened up again, but those that are operating are running at lower cover capacity – somewhere between 50 and 70 percent – because they are having to observe physical distancing protocols,” he said.