Unilever sales slow despite virus cleaning frenzy
British-Dutch consumer giant Unilever said Thursday that worried consumers snapped up cleaning products due to the coronavirus pandemic but that overall sales slid.
During the first half of the year, sales came in at 25.7 billion euros ($29.8 billion), a drop of 1.6 percent from the same period last year, with currency fluctuations also negatively affecting the results.
In the second quarter, when lockdowns were in place in much of Europe and North America, overall sales slid by 2.9 percent to 13.3 billion euros.
Unilever said coronavirus and lockdowns provoked changes in consumer behaviour, with people spending more time at home and being more concerned about hygiene.
“We saw increased consumer demand for household cleaning products, such as Cif surface cleaners, and our home and hygiene brands delivered high-teens underlying sales growth,” the company said in a statement.
Nevertheless sales of home care products overall fell by 3.7 percent during the quarter to 2.6 billion euros.
And with many people no longer going into the office or out to socialise, sales of personal grooming products sagged by 3.6 percent to 5.3 billion euros.
“Lockdowns in our markets and reduced personal care occasions amidst restricted living, led to lower demand for skin care, deodorants and hair care, which each saw volume and price decline,” said Unilever.
The division’s largest brand, Dove soap, saw mid-single digit growth, however.
Sales of food products, which includes brands such as Magnum ice cream, Knorr soups and Lipton tea, slid 1.8 percent in the second quarter to 5.4 billion.
It noted a 40 percent drop in food service sales at hotels, restaurants and cafes which was partially offset by a rise in retail food sales.
The results were better than expected by many analysts, and shares in the firm jumped by more than 8 percent in morning trading, outpacing the 1.2 percent gain for Amsterdam’s main stock index.