More Masks Means Fewer Germs, Hitting P&G’s Cold-Medicine Sales

As Americans put social gatherings on hold to avoid contracting the coronavirus, they’re catching fewer common colds, damping sales of the over-the-counter remedies that usually fly off the shelves when the temperature drops.

Sales of cold, flu and cough medicine in the U.S. plummeted 46% in the five weeks ended Dec. 26 from the same period a year prior, according to data from market research firm Nielsen. Procter and Gamble Co., which owns the Vicks and NyQuil medicine brands, said the drop in run-of-the-mill stuffy noses and sore throats partially offset the otherwise strong quarter for its health-care segment.

More Masks Means Fewer Germs, Hitting P&G’s Cold-Medicine Sales

“Certainly the cough-cold season is not as strong it has been over the last couple years. That’s a good thing on some levels, but it does reduce demand for cough-cold treatment,” Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller said in an interview.

He attributed the weaker cold season to “a reduced amount of social interaction, social distancing when interaction occurs, the use of masks and cleaning hands much more frequently” -- meaning consumer health and hygiene priorities related to virus transmission are working.

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