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Apr 09, 2021
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Americans feverishly stocked up on hand sanitizer in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, snapping up every bottle they could find and leaving shelves bare for months. Finding a bottle of Purell was like striking gold.

Well, the gold rush has ended.

Many retailers and manufacturers are now facing a surplus of hand sanitizer, so much so that they’re using discounts and giveaways to get rid of the stuff – especially off-brand products that flooded the market in the months after the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, imports of hand sanitizer, which surged last summer as industry newcomers scrambled to meet demand, have plummeted. And distilleries that had suddenly entered the hand sanitizer business have pulled back.

To be sure, demand remains elevated over pre-pandemic levels, and brand names like Purell are still performing well.

But many Americans now have more than enough hand sanitizer in the cupboards at home. Demand may also have trailed off amid an increasing recognition that COVID-19 is typically transmitted from person to person through the air, not on surfaces.

U.S. hand sanitizer sales rose more than 620% in 2020, totaling about $1.45 billion, according to research firm NielsenIQ. But sales have fallen for several consecutive months since last year’s peak.

In January, hand sanitizer sales fell 38% compared with December.

In February, they fell 23% compared with January.

And in March, they fell 3% compared with February.
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