Along with the elusive face mask, hand sanitizer is easily the most in-demand product as humans navigate the risks of Coronavirus. Within days of lockdown, Purell, the most widely known sanitizer in the business, had disappeared from store shelves. Opportunistic vendors doubled and tripled prices. Others simply hoarded the product. Larry David featured Purell in recent pre-lockdown episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm as a nod to modern germophobic times.

Akron-based GOJO Industries ($GOJO) manufactures Purell, and it's had a hard time keeping up with demand all while social media users lament its scarcity. At first, the company was hamstrung by supply chain tariffs that made its own product difficult (and expensive) to import. Those tariffs were lifted, and it appeared that supply bottlenecks were eased.

The last day Purell appeared in Amazon's sales ranks was over a month ago.

But as of now, it's nearly impossible for the average consumer to buy even a single bottle of Purell. Walmart is only selling Purell to in-store purchasers, removing it completely from its e-commerce offering. Meanwhile, Amazon ($NASDAQ:AMZN) is only selling Purell to hospitals and government after price gougers and hoarders made it impossible to police the marketplace.

The last day Purell appeared in Amazon's sales ranks was over a month ago.

Purell's allure is real. The Washington Post waxed lustful prose about the allure of Purell in times of pandemic: "Imagine having enough Purell to cover not just your hands but your entire body, right now."

People want Purell. The good news for those who want to bathe in the stuff is that hiring at the company is up. The bad news is that it may be too late.

The company was hiring for as many as 47 people on April 3, up from 33 just two weeks prior. The family-owned company employs about 2,500 people, and in recent decades has made billions for the Lippman family who, in the 1950s, took a chance on the notion that people wouldn't always have a sink nearby to wash their hands.

Many of Gojo's openings are within the manufacturing sector, including Machine Operators and Warehouse Coordinators for multiple shifts, in a sign that the company is doing what it can to meet demand in domestic operations.

Most of the factory positions are listed as "Full Time Regular" at the company's Wooster, OH facility with a top-level requirement to "Meet the daily production schedule".

Consumers are turning to alternatives, making their own sanitizer, and simply looking elsewhere.

Meanwhile, at least in its public statements, the company isn't worried. Gojo Industries spokesperson Samantha Williams told Forbes that the company's "demand surge preparedness team" is successfully scaling up production.

Demand is "on the higher end of the spectrum, but not unprecedented," she said.

That was almost a month ago, and consumers don't seem to agree. They're turning to alternatives, making their own sanitizer, and simply looking elsewhere.

In March, right after the aforementioned promises of coming availability, the number of mentions Purell saw on Facebook ($NASDAQ:FB) swelled to more than 4,000 a day. But since then, and tracking with the product's scarcity, less than 800 people mention the brand every 24 hours. Meanwhile, Facebook follower count — once at a healthy uptick in early March — has flattened out.

That consumer apathy for the brand is mirrored in Purell's Twitter ($NYSE:TWTR) following, which saw a steep rise in early March, only to run nearly flat in the past week. Lopsided supply and demand prompted Gojo to address the problem via a prepared CEO statement on Twitter.

Response to the tweet has been lukewarm at best, with some Twitter users derided the company for failing to meet demand and others angry with other consumers who hoarded the product in the first place.

The company appears aware of its social flail. On March 25, Gojo opened a Content Strategist position, which will help the company "increase engagement, build credibility, drive conversions and help nurture prospects into customers and customers into brand loyalists/customers for life". On March 30, it opened a Copywriter position that will help elevate its social media posts.

That all said, demand for hand sanitizer — and its most well-known brand — will likely remain high even after people head back out to work, to school, and around the world. The question, however, is if this lag in production and availability has already forced enough consumers to realize that what they thought was a unique product was really just a bottle of alcohol and gel.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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