When did orders for protective gear start increasing?
Sales of our infection kits began to skyrocket by mid to late January. The sales only stopped as we ran out of the ability to produce them due to the lack of availability of N95 masks, hand sanitizer, and other key components. We were able to fulfill demand until about early to mid-March. Supply chains have caught up, though, and we expect to be able to market these kits again by mid-April on a more limited basis.
When was the last time supplies like this sold so briskly?
We had no sales of these type of kits since the concern over Ebola [in 2014]. We saw spikes around the time of swine flu and bird flu, as well. But COVID-19 associated sales were significantly higher than those last three periods. This type of product is only top of mind when the headlines begin to appear.
What other things are people buying right now?
People were initially buying long term food storage because they began to understand that they might be locked down like in China for a period of more than just two weeks. People now understand that it can be over two months. The most surprising thing is the sale of emergency water. There was no indication that there would be a nationwide water shortage, but you would have thought there was.
Have groups been contacting you, too?
Most of our sales are to individuals and corporations. But for the last several weeks we have received inquiries from large and small medical groups asking for quantities in the hundreds of thousands and millions of N95 masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, etc. These are quantities usually only provided by the major manufacturers. The fact that they were contacting us as a small business was evidence of the level of desperation.
Any advice for people looking for gear like N95 masks to ensure they’re not getting ripped off?
Very simple: Buy from people who have been in the business for many years. Avoid “pop-up” vendors whether via email, Facebook, etc. If you use common sense and are not desperate, you can avoid most of the scams.
Has this been a wake-up call?
There will certainly be many who start to pay more attention to their preparedness needs. But history indicates that many will go into a state of dormancy and just panic during the next crisis. Being prepared requires a change in mindset rather than just an occasional binge purchase. Those of us with that preparedness mindset have been prepared for a global pandemic for years. All we did was top off our supplies since January. By the time people were fighting for toilet paper, we were settling in at home.