Staff avoiding the shower while working from home, soap boss says

Sales of shower gels, razors and deodorants are suffering, PZ Cussons boss Jonathan Myers said.


Locked down office workers have cut down on showers as they move away from the usual morning routine, the chief executive of one of the world’s biggest soap makers has said.

Jonathan Myers, the chief executive of PZ Cussons, said that the company’s shower and bath products have seen worse sales as people shower less while working from home.

“I think that’s exactly the dynamic. You look at lipstick, you look at razorblades, there are a number of categories that have struggled because people’s consumer habits have changed during lockdown,” he told the PA news agency.

Mr Myers said that the company must figure out what habits will be permanent changes – sanitiser gel for instance – and which will go back to normal.

It was one of the reasons why sales of Imperial Leather declined in PZ Cussons’ most recent financial year, despite being in the middle of a pandemic where people were panic buying soap.

“Imperial Leather is a mixture of bar soaps, which we sell around the world, and a lot of shower gel and the bath gel that we sell in the UK… some of the personal categories that would be very much used when you’re going to work are being less used,” he said.

“That could be cosmetics, it could be deodorant, it could be shaving products. But actually, shower and bath has seen a decline in usage as people have been going through different levels of lockdown,” he added.

But part of the decline was by design, as PZ Cussons focused its attention on Carex, another soap brand whose sales rocketed during lockdown.

“Given its anti-bacterial credentials and its power with the customer, we only had enough bottles and pumps to go around, so that went into Carex rather than Imperial Leather,” chief financial officer Alan Bergin told PA.

On Tuesday, the business reported a nearly 33% drop in pre-tax profit to £29.3 million on revenue of £587.2 million for the financial year ending May 31, down 2.6%.

Since then, in the first quarter of the current financial year, PZ Cussons reported 23% revenue growth, but the company is not out the woods just yet, warning of volatility ahead.

“We’re being very clear we’ve had a good quarter, but we haven’t fixed the business,” Mr Myers said.

Some brands did not grow this year or last year and will need “a lot of effort” to turn around, he added.

The business said it will pay a dividend for the year, although lower than last time. Shares dropped by 6.7% on the news.

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