CVS, Walgreens warn there could be a hand sanitizer shortage

Coronavirus

Walgreen’s hand sanitizer sits on display at a store in New York. (JB Reed/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — U.S. drug stores, retailers and suppliers are racing to keep up with surging interest for cleaning products as fears over coronavirus intensify.

Demand for products like hand sanitizers, face masks and cleaning wipes has spiked, according to CVS, Walgreens and others. CVS warned it may cause supply shortages.

“This demand may cause temporary shortages at some store locations and we re-supply those stores as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson for CVS said.

Bath & Body Works, owned by L Brands, said Thursday that its hand sanitizer business was growing in the wake of coronavirus.

“The hand sanitizer business is about 5% of the total business. It is presently growing at a very high rate for reasons we would all understand,” L Brands chief financial officer Stuart Burgdoerfer said on a call with analysts.

Meanwhile, cleaning goods companies are stepping up production to meet demand.

“We are taking up inventory levels [to] be prepared for the potential increase in demand for some of our bleach products,” Clorox chief financial officer Kevin Jacobsen said on a call with analysts earlier this month. Clorox is one of four S&P 500 stocks to rise this week as the rest of the market has plunged.

On Thursday, Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of Dettol and Lysol said it was investing in its supply chain to be able to prevent shortages.

“We’re continuing to make capacity investments to ensure that we don’t run out at the peak for some of these products that we have that, frankly, consumers demand and we can’t fulfill,” said CEO Laxman Narasimhan.

The best way to prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus is washing your hands — thoroughly — with soap and water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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