Online Exclusives

The Back to School Bump

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | September 2, 2013

Back to school means more than pencils and notebooks. Shopping lists include hand sanitizer and wipes.

This time of year, millions of children are embarking on their first day of school, loaded down with backpacks full pencils, notebooks and glue sticks—and wipes and hand sanitizer bottles too. Like crayons and ballpoint pencils, these products have become staples on school supply lists across the US as teachers and administrators are asking families to help keep classrooms clean and germ-free.
According to data from WSL Strategic Retail, 56% of consumers say they are shopping for healthcare items like hand sanitizers, vitamins and first-aid this back to school season. Consider it a late summer pick-me up for companies that usually see a bounce in sales during cold and flu season. 
According to IRI, sales of hand sanitizers (at US multi-outlets) for the 13 week period ending Sept. 30, 2012 were $59.09 million, up 5.29% over the same period in 2011, and sales of all-purpose household cleaner cloths were $154.6 million, up 7.83%. (For the year ended July 14, 2013, hand sanitizer sales were $187.68 million and all-purpose household cleaner cloths were $559.48 million, according to the Chicago based market research firm.)
“The back-to-school season is about preparing for the upcoming school year and all that comes with it. This includes high-contact and shared environments such as a classroom, where there is the potential for increased exposure to germs,” Anne McNamee, senior brand manager at Germ-X, told
To get into the back-to-school spirit, Germ-X for the second year in a row created a limited edition package on its original and aloe hand sanitizers. But this year, there was a bit of a snafu.
“This year we initially made a mistake in the development of those labels with a misspelling. We saw this as an opportunity to build our Facebook launch and coupon offer around the error. We’re literally going back to school to learn how to spell the word permanent—or is it permenant?” McNamee said, referring to the misspelling on the Germ-X label.
A big player in germ-protection, Lysol will launch the Healthy Habits Program in partnership with the National Education Association and National PTA. The initiative will kick off nationally during the first-ever Healthy Habits Week on Sept. 23.
Via the program’s microsite, teachers and parents can download resources to help teach healthy habits, including ready-to-use lesson plans, a parent activity calendar and materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition, Lysol will also launch the Lysol Healthy Habits Tour, billed by the brand as a science museum on wheels that will visit dozens of schools in September and October and give students an interactive way to learn about health and wellness.
I&I brands also have the back-to-school season marked on their calendars. These experts recognize that an empty classroom doesn’t necessarily mean a clean one.
“It doesn’t take long for germs and bacteria to form and spread when there is no cleaning regiment in place. Back to school cleaning is critical to ensuring a ‘safe harbor’ for the return of children and teachers,” said Rich Bucher, director of ITW Professional Brands, which manufactures Spray Nine disinfectants and Scrubs pre-moistened wipes, among other products for I&I settings.
While bathroom and public areas are normally addressed with regularity, Bucher listed a roster of highly touched objects—door handles, drinking fountains, desks and chairs, play areas and cafeteria and room tables—all of which will be covered by lots of little hands and will need to be cleaned too.
And cleaned quickly. In a survey conducted by Wakefield Research, 85% of teachers believe it takes less than an hour for their students to make a mess of their classroom. The survey was conducted on behalf of Bounty Paper Towels and Puffs Facial Tissues—products that have been mainstays in classrooms across the country.
According to data from the P&G-owned brands, on average, K-6 teachers go through 37 boxes of tissues each school year, or about a box a week.
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