"Fiscal year 2021 was an extraordinary year for Clorox, with the pandemic putting us through the test of volatility, including rapid changes in consumer demand and inflationary pressure, which is reflected in our fourth quarter results," said CEO Linda Rendle. "It reinforced the strength of our global portfolio, which has never been more relevant to consumers. And it showed the opportunity to accelerate our IGNITE strategy to capitalize on changing consumer trends, differentiate Clorox and win in our categories.
According to Rendle, in the face of a challenging environment, Clorox continued to advance its IGNITE strategy and key priorities, including doubling its innovation investment and delivering over $120 million in cost savings in the fiscal year.
“We made progress on expanding production capacity, achieving our highest case fill rate since the start of the pandemic, which contributed to market share gains across the vast majority of our businesses. Our investments in e-commerce, data-driven personalization and innovation are also paying off. We've nearly doubled our e-commerce business in the past two years, we're experiencing higher levels of consumer engagement and our innovation has become an increasingly meaningful contributor to top-line growth,” she said.
Fourth Quarter Performance
In the fourth quarter, sales were down 9%, with decreases in three of four reportable segments. Organic sales were down 10% for the quarter. On a two-year stack basis, Clorox generated sales growth of 13%, it said. The sales decreases were due primarily to the deceleration of shipments from peak levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, including more rapid than expected deceleration in the Health and Wellness segment.
Fourth quarter sales were also negatively impacted by unfavorable price mix driven by supply improvements, which led to broader product assortment with the reintroduction of value packs. These factors were partially offset by one point of benefit from the July 2020 acquisition of a majority share in the company's joint venture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, said the maker of Clorox bleach and cleaning products and owner of Burt’s Bees skin care.
The company's fourth quarter gross margin decreased by 970 basis points to 37.1% from 46.8% in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin performance was driven by higher manufacturing and logistics costs, increased commodity costs due to significant cost inflation, decreasing sales resulting in lower manufacturing fixed-cost absorption and unfavorable price mix, partially offset by the benefits of cost savings initiatives.
Clorox says its Health and Wellness segment-which includes cleaning, professional products, vitamins, minerals and supplements, saw a 17% decrease in Q4 from the same quarter a year ago. Sales decreased in two of three businesses, primarily reflecting lower shipments of cleaning and disinfecting products in both the retail and professional channels as consumer demand decelerated. Segment sales results were also impacted by negative product mix from the normalization of supply.
Clorox’s Lifestyle unit, which includes its food, water filtration, natural personal care, reported a 3% sales decrease durn Q4. Sales decreased in two of three businesses from unfavorable price mix and lower shipments in water filtration and food from moderating consumer demand.
International sales increased 5% in the quatyer.
Investments Earmarked for Fiscal 2022
Starting in fiscal year 2022, Clorox expects to invest approximately $500 million over the next five years, including about $90 million in fiscal year 2022, in its digital capabilities and productivity enhancements. This investment will include replacing the enterprise resource planning system, which will generate efficiencies and better position the company in supply chain, digital commerce, innovation and brand building over the long term, according to Clorox.