Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Clorox disinfectant wipes and other cleaning products are still difficult – often impossible – to find.
Although Clorox officials said in May that they expected retail shelves to be stocked by this summer, they anticipate it will take longer.
"Given the fact that cold and flu (season) sits in the middle of the (fiscal) year, and we expect the pandemic to be with us for the entirety of the year, it will take the full year to get up to the supply levels that we need to be at," Linda Rendle, president and CEO-elect of Clorox, said in an earnings call Monday.
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For months, shoppers across the nation have been frustrated as they scour the internet and stores for Lysol sprays and Clorox wipes, only to find shelves picked clean after households stocked up on cleaning products to protect against infection. Wipes were one of the first COVID-19 shortages, along with toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Manufacturers such as Clorox were not prepared for skyrocketing demand in a sleepy sector with reliably steady sales that usually fluctuate only during flu season.
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Sales at Clorox’s health and wellness division, which includes cleaning products and supplements, rose 33% during the company's fourth quarter and made up more than 40% of total sales. Officials said the growth was fueled by an increase in demand related to the pandemic.
"We know that we are not able to meet the demand, and that is priority number one, is getting as much supply as we possibly can into the retail space to ensure that consumers have products they need during this time," Rendle said.
Rendle and Clorox CEO and chairman Benno Dorer said the demand outpaced expectations and isn't expected to slow down.
"We're certainly not at all happy with our service levels for our retail customers on many products, as demand for our products exceeded our own expectations in the face of this persistent pandemic," Dorer said during the call. "We have a high sense of urgency on this with all hands on deck."
Supply of some of the company's brands is expected to normalize by the end of the year, including Kingsford, Brita, Glad and Nutranext, Rendle said, adding bleach supply has also recovered.
"We had anticipated that some businesses would begin to recover quicker, and we have seen that in the case of bleach, where in-stock levels at retail are looking much stronger than they have been, despite the fact that we’ve been prioritizing health care," Rendle said.
Along with bringing on more than 10 new suppliers, Dorer said, plants have been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We'll be bringing more disinfecting capacity online in the midterm," he said. "With all the levers we're pulling to expand output, I am confident in our ability to do better for our customers and consumers."
Contributing: Jessica Guynn
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Clorox wipes shortage could last until next year amid COVID-19