We're a Nation of Purell Addicts

Sure, you may be really worried about contracting swine flu and then spending the next couple of weeks confined to bed (or worse). But do you know who is totally psyched that Americans are in a state of panic about H1N1? Executives at Johnson & Johnson! It's J&J that makes Purell hand sanitizer. And it's making a fortune now that we're all buying the mystery goo by the truckload. It's even offsetting the fact that we're no longer showering as much as we used to.

Per AdAge:

The H1N1 virus is saving household, personal-care and over-the-counter drug marketers that are seeing huge sales increases in products to fight the epidemic –- enough to make almost all the difference between a flat month and respectable 3.5% sales growth for the industry in October.
Year-over-year double- and triple-digit sales increases in such categories as hand sanitizers, cough/cold/allergy medications, analgesics and diarrhea medicine produced $208.8 million in incremental sales...

This is especially good news for J&J, AdAge reports, since it owns Purell, although execs at the pharma giant didn't really anticipate this happening. ("J&J probably didn't even realize they were buying Purell when they bought Pfizer," says Deutsche Bank analyst Bill Schmitz.) Luckily for J&J—and disconcertingly for the rest of us—Purell's success is making up for the fact that Americans are washing themselves less thanks to the recession:

Prior to that, volume had been declining since early 2008, as what was once thought to be a recession-proof industry discovered people do indeed wash, shave and make themselves up less in a recession, as unemployment rises and nights out decline.

So our hands are bacteria-free, but our bodies now stink? That doesn't sound like a good trade-off at all, does it?

H1N1 Boosts Sales for Household, Personal Care Marketers [AdAge]
Photo: Dartmouth.edu