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Retailers, consumers and prices

Even CEOs don’t make the top of the H1N1 list

October 22, 2009

If anyone knows about the demand for flu-related products, it’s Kimberly-Clark Chairman and CEO Thomas Falk.

Falk’s company sells everything from Kleenex tissues — which aren’t seeing such hot sales as people have fewer sniffles — to N95 respirator masks, which are a top seller right now.

h1n1-flu-vaccinesFalk, who spoke with Reuters following his company’s better-than-expected results, said he got his seasonal flu shot at a store while he was in Wisconsin.  Though, he said he does not plan to get an H1N1 shot because the vaccine is being targeted at pregnant women (he’s not in that category) and people 24 and under (that’s right, he’s not on that list, either).

“We don’t consider an H1N1 shot to be an executive perk,” Falk joked.

Kimberly-Clark is seeing growth in its health care business spurred by flu-related demand for masks, gloves and items such as hospital gowns.  Falk said he’s even heard of people keeping a mask at home, “just in case.”

“We’ve got a pretty good backorder,” Falk said of masks.

Rival mask maker 3M, meanwhile, said it was investing $20 million to add additional respirator production capability in Singapore.

“Our factories have been running flat out since May of this year to keep up with demand,” 3M’s Chief Finance Officer Pat Campbell said during a call to discuss the company’s latest results.  “And we see back orders well beyond the end of the year.”

(Additional reporting by James Kelleher)

(Reuters photo)

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