Unilever sees pandemic changing consumer habits

Unilever sees pandemic changing consumer habits
The Coronavirus Pandemic has causes a climate of anxiety and changing routines in America. (Getty/AFP)
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Updated 24 April 2020

Unilever sees pandemic changing consumer habits

Unilever sees pandemic changing consumer habits

THE HAGUE: Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever reported on Thursday a slight rise in first quarter sales and said the coronavirus has caused hygiene product sales to rocket while those of ice cream melted.

The firm, which produces Magnum ice cream, Domestos household cleaner and Lipton tea among other things, said that sales edged up by 0.2 percent to €12.4 billion ($13.3 billion) from the same period a year earlier.

Unilever withdrew its outlook for the year however, and its shares fell sharply in Amsterdam.

“The COVID-19 disease is having an unprecedented impact on people and economies worldwide,” chief executive, Alan Jope, noted in a statement before adding: “Demand patterns are changing.”

The global crisis caused “upswings in sales of hygiene and in-home food products, combined with some household stocking, and near cessation of out-of-home consumption, which is particularly affecting our food service and ice cream business,” he said.

SPEEDREAD

Consumer companies such as Unilever are having to adapt to changing consumer purchasing patterns triggered by worldwide lockdowns as people stock up on cleaning products and turn to comfort foods.

Unilever, based in London and Rotterdam, said that skin-cleansing products sales were steadily growing, as health authorities stressed the importance of washing hands. Demand for home cleaners such as Cif and Domestos bleach was also strong, as was that for what the company calls “in-home food products” such as Hellman’s mayonnaise.

But as travel restrictions and lockdowns put a sharp brake on leisure and tourism activities, Unilever saw sales plummet elsewhere, particularly of Magnum products.

In Europe, Turkey and Latin America, sales “were heavily impacted by lock-down measures and the reluctance of distributors to commit to buying ice cream stock with an uncertain holiday and tourism season,” Unilever said.

One of the world’s largest producers of consumer goods, the group said that it was maintaining a steady supply of products.

“We are keeping our factories running through the many unpredictable challenges in local operating environments,” Jope said.

Unilever maintained its quarterly dividend payout at €0.41 per share, but withdrew its outlook for the rest of the year.

“The unknown severity and duration of the pandemic, as well as the containment measures that may be adopted in each country, mean that we cannot reliably assess the impact across our markets and our business,” Jope said.

Investors picked up on a negative sentiment, with Unilever’s share price shedding almost 5 percent in mid-morning trade on the Amsterdam stock exchange while the AEX index was off by just 0.64 percent.


UK economy shrinks by 2.6% in November, first drop since April

UK economy shrinks by 2.6% in November, first drop since April
Updated 15 January 2021

UK economy shrinks by 2.6% in November, first drop since April

UK economy shrinks by 2.6% in November, first drop since April
  • The fall in gross domestic product much lower than the average forecast for a 5.7 percent drop

LONDON: Britain’s economy shrank by 2.6 percent in November, the first monthly fall in output since the depths of an initial COVID lockdown in April, as new restrictions were imposed on much of the country to slow the spread of the disease.
The fall in gross domestic product reported by the Office for National Statistics was much lower than the average forecast for a 5.7 percent drop in a Reuters poll of economists.
The Bank of England estimates Britain’s economy shrank by just over 1 percent over the final three months of 2020, and with a new lockdown in place since January the country is likely to have fallen into a double-dip recession.
The BoE ramped up its bond-buying program to almost 900 billion pounds in November and Governor Andrew Bailey said this week that it was too soon to say if further stimulus would be needed.