Retailers practically giving away hand sanitizer after hoarding it during pandemic

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As the pandemic wanes, US retailers are frantically moving to clear excess hand sanitizer.

After frantically stocking up on disinfectants last year, consumers have largely stopped buying them, partly because the CDC now says that there is minimal risk of getting COVID-19 by touching surfaces.

That’s a big headache for stores that have anti-germ products piled up in their warehouses and retail shelves. Some businesses are practically giving the stuff away with buy-one, get-three sales or gift cards for buying multiple bottles.

Target.com is offering a $5 gift card to anyone who buys four 8-ounce bottles of Dove hand sanitizer. B&R Stores, a Nebraska-based retailer, told the Wall Street Journal it is selling sanitizers for as much as 60 percent off after paying twice as much for the products last year compared to 2019, according to the report.

“It’s worth more to us gone than it is clogging our shelves,” Mark Griffin, president of B&R Stores Inc. in Nebraska told The Wall Street Journal.

Hand sanitizer sales are down 80 percent to $9.2 million in the first week of May compared to a year ago, while the average unit price consumers pay is down 40 percent over the same time period, according to NielsenIQ. 

Retailers are hoping to offload the surplus before the products’ two-year expiration date, the paper reported. Some, including big chains Target and Staples, have even turned to auction sites like Liquidity Services and Liquidation.com to get rid of the large pallets in their warehouses. 

Distillers, which jumped into the fray last year to help meet the demand because they had access to pure alcohol, are also sitting on gallons of disinfectant that some are now simply giving away, according to the Journal.

But at least one company is betting that germaphobe behavior is a lasting trend.

Gojo Industries, which makes Purell, added three manufacturing facilities over the past year, spokeswoman Samantha Williams told The Journal. She said demand for Purell hand sanitizer is still higher than pre-pandemic levels as consumers have an “increased awareness of hygiene practices,” according to the report.

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