Consumer packaged-goods giant Procter & Gamble continues to have a very good pandemic, all things considered. Sales in the quarter ending September 30 were 9 percent higher than the same quarter a year ago, with most of the growth being driven by higher sales volume. It seems people are still buying a lot of paper towels and soap.
An obvious question for some of the company’s investors: How long can this last? And to some extent, strong sales for P&G this summer were really a reflection of strong sales in the spring — retailers that had sold out their stocks of household goods earlier in the year needed to buy more from P&G to replenish their inventories over the summer. But the company has raised its sales guidance for the full fiscal year (which runs through next June) and says it expects at least a portion of the higher sales volume to be persistent.
“It’s hard for us to see in our interactions with consumers that we’re going to snap back and revert to the same attitudes and the same behaviors that we had collectively pre-COVID,” said P&G COO Jon Moeller on a call with investors. “Even things like the amount of inventory, pantry inventory, I keep — and in some way, this is analogous that some of us remember our grandparents, for example, having survived the Great Depression. And they continued to hold on to more brewed and canned items that I could never understand. But it was because of what they’ve been through.”
Of course, the changes in consumer behavior aren’t all in the direction of buying more. The company, which owns the Gillette brand, says sales of men’s blades and razors are down “due to pandemic-related consumption decline.” That presumably reflects a combination of intentional pandemic beard growing and five-day stubble that men don’t need to shave when working from home. But slacking on shaving is a gender-specific trend: Women’s blade and razor sales continue to rise, according to P&G.
The eventual return of more workers to the office may mean a return to more frequent shaving. But beards are a good example of a trend exacerbated by COVID, rather than created by it, so in recognition that the decline in men’s shaving may be persistent even after the pandemic abates, the company is marketing a new line of “King C. Gillette”–branded beard-maintenance products to men with less skin to shave.