Cough and Cold Sales During and Post Pandemic

By Les Hamilton, SVP, Chief Revenue Officer, Hylands, Inc.

As we spend the summer months preparing for the fall and winter selling seasons, the question I get asked most frequently is, “What’s in store for the next cough/cold season?” This question is usually followed by vague forecasting data and answers like, “I have no idea,” or “I hope better than last year.” Can anyone really know the real answer ahead of time?

There are numerous forecasting tools and data points we use at Hyland’s to predict what we think may be a “closer to normal” selling season for our cough/cold and flu products. But at the end of the day, it’s still a guess. We can look at foot traffic in stores and infer one thing; we can look at mask mandates and the opening of schools and infer another. What we do know is that when the season hits, and it will sometime in the future, we will be prepared.

In talking with two major drug chains regarding this very topic, we have realized that we seem to all be in the same boat. Because we have never been in a situation quite like this before, nobody knows for sure what will happen in the fall. While we never wish for people to get sick, we hope that if they do, they reach for natural alternatives like homeopathy products to help them recover from their ailments.

There has been a recent uptick in POS for cough and cold products in the early summer months, with some items' weekly sales hitting what we would normally sell in an entire month. Should this trend continue, we may be headed for a great selling season.

I recommend reading this blog from Catalina on recent sales growth following relaxed mask guidelines. They provide a particularly useful infographic:

A press release from the same source provides an additional and equally useful chart on sales increases:

So, following the one-year anniversary of the pandemic onset, we have seen explosive foot traffic growth March through May, accompanied by healthy sales growth across most categories, including cough and cold. Based on significant progress in public safety measures and vaccination efforts compared to last year, we anticipate foot traffic and sales tailwinds to continue through early summer and are optimistic that gradual increases in vaccine supply/administration and overall “normalcy" will fuel incremental growth for the remainder of the year. Should this trend continue, retailers and manufacturers should be gearing up for what could be a stellar cough/cold/flu season.