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Autumn marks the arrival of flu season, and this year, in addition to the flu bugs that typically strike, Americans have the H1N1 virus to worry about. As a result, consumers are taking a number of steps that they hope will prevent them from catching the flu. One simple way they’re doing so is by purchasing hand sanitizers, sales of which have skyrocketed in the last six months, according to new data from The Nielsen Company. In the 24 weeks ending Oct. 3, dollar sales of hand sanitizers were $118.4 million, up 70.5 percent over the same period a year ago ($69.4 million).
On a unit basis, sales were up 63.1 percent, while equivalized unit volume (a conversion that equivalizes products of varying sizes) jumped 81.9 percent. For the 52 weeks ending Oct. 3, dollar sales grew 22.5 percent to $179.7 million, while unit sales were up 17.8 percent. On an equivalized unit volume basis, sales grew 55 percent.
Sales hit a peak in the four-week period ending May 16, 2009, as news of H1N1 outbreaks were all over the news. This was the highest period in the three years that Nielsen has tracked sales of the product. Sales subsided during the summer, but then hit their second-highest sales period during the four weeks ending Oct. 3, 2009.
Schaumburg, Ill.-based Nielsen tracks the sales of consumer goods in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores, including Walmart.
All through the back-to-school season and amid news of the availability (or scarcity) of a vaccine, online conversations about H1N1 (still commonly referred to as “swine flu” by many consumers online) continue to be among the hottest of Web topics. The conversations about the flu are particularly active on parenting and pregnancy sites. A detailed look at that segment shows that on Oct. 25, 17.5 percent of all buzz on parenting/pregnancy blogs focused on the virus.