In marketing parlance, the fear factor or “F” factor, is one of several factors that influence shoppers’ decisions. This factor, though hardly given a thought, now tops shoppers’ list. No thanks to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
Indeed, since the first discovery of the EVD in Lagos last month, the “F” factor has played up on shoppers’ list, leading to the high demand for hand sanitisers. The ripple effect of this is that prices of the once unknown product has hit the rooftops. This follows the recommendations of the World Health organisation (WHO), Ministry of Health and other concerned bodies, on the efficacy of sanitisers in preventing the deadly disease.
The Ebola virus is primarily transmitted through contact with body fluids of infected persons, their skins and mucous membranes being the main routes of entry.
A statement by an online store, Kaymu, said the demand for hand sanitiser has increased by 130 per cent since the virus struck. Sales of hand washes and lotions have equally increased significantly in supermarket and departmental stores across the Lagos metropolis.
Ifeanyi Abraham of Konga online store lent credence to this when he told The Nation that since the coming of the EVD, the online store has recorded a significant hike in sales of sanitary products on its portal, Konga.com. At some point, Abraham noted, the online store ran out of sanitisers and other sanitary products unexpectedly, and had to quickly re-stock.
“The demand for sanitary products has risen greatly since the outbreak of the Ebola disease. Our hand sanitiser sale has risen to about 200 per cent since the outbreak was first reported in Nigeria. We have customers, who buy in bulk as awareness of the EVD increases daily,” he said.
Also, Jumia’s public relations officer, Tomiwa Oladele, confirmed that the outfit has recorded an 80 per cent increase in demand and sales of sanitisers since the death of the late Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, who ferried the EVD to Nigeria. “We have seen an increased purchase of the item in bulk, which indicates that people are buying and keeping it at home. We have sold over 5, 000 sanitisers in less than one month and we are still counting,” she said. And with a rising demand and the need to satisfy its customers, Oladele said the online store has had to create a section to have all sanitary products in one location for accessibility to customers.
The said demand for sanitisers has also followed the law of demand and supply. Retailers of the product have seized the moment to significantly increase the price. For instance, an average size santiser, which used to sell for N200 before the EVD saga now sells for between N1, 000 and N1, 500, representing about 800 per cent increase. Oladele attributed the hike to the inability of producers to meet the demand for the product.
The high demand has also led to sub-standard or unknown brands flooding the market. The unprecedented rise in demand, it was gathered, has encouraged some retailers to introduce new, but substandard brands into the market as substitutes for much sought after brands, which are presumably expensive. Before the EVD outbreak, sanitary products accounted for a little percentage of the health category market sales, but it is now high on the demand chart for several weeks running.
Interestingly, the EVD has brought with it a good side- promotion of basic hygiene to prevent the transmission of not just the diseases, but other germs and bacteria related diseases. This is by observing simple habit of washing hands with soap and water, hand-wash liquids and sanitisers. People now see the importance of washing their hands and using sanitisers as necessary after a visit to toilets or touching a dirty object.
A visit to some major markets in the Lagos metropolis showed that shoppers and market women have formed new habits. Some now wear hand gloves to markets as some bankers now do when attending to their customers. Some do wear nose masks when counting money to shield them from respiratory penetration.
Forming the ‘new fad’, market women now make bowls of water and soap handy for regular use after each transaction. Some also add salt into the water- a reasoning based on the believed efficacy of salt. Besides, fruit sellers now wash their commodities in salty water before displaying them and advise their consumers to do same at home before eating the fruits.
The Palms Shopping Mall’s public relations officer, Precious Eweka, in Lekki, explained that contract staff, cleaners and security are being advised on the deadly virus and how to keep safe. The mall has also provided awareness messages on all electronic boards within the mall, in the toilets and the car park about the preventive measures to be taken, while hand sanitisers have been placed within the mall upon arrival.
Shoprite’s George Ukwunna said hand sanitisers have been placed at strategic places inside the store. “We have hand sanitisers on our counters and entrance for shoppers. There are first aid boxes, in case there are minor injuries and safety point for emergency cases,” he explained.
Marketing Manager, Ikeja City mall, Eniola Ositelu, also said the mall is putting in place some preventive measures to curb the spread of the disease. He said the mall’s management distributed audio CDs at the mall to enlighten tenants and shoppers about the virus. “We have complemented that with circulating detailed information on the virus,” he said, adding: “There is provision for hand sanitisers in strategic places within the mall and it is expected to arrive before the end of the week.
He continued: “Contractors have been dully intimated about the virus and are currently putting into place measures to ensure that the mall and its environs are safe for shoppers. Preventative measures have also been placed on electronic boards within the mall. We will also use our media platforms to inform shoppers and members of the public about the Ebola virus. Our mall is safe for shoppers and it remains the choice destination for shopping, leisure and entertainment.”
At local market such as Mushin and Ketu, market leaders said they have been told to wash their hands before and after attending to customers. “The orientation given to us is that our traders must wash their hands after collecting money from customers and we have made provisions for that. We have clinic around us where we are advised to visit,”a market leader said.