At the onset of the pandemic, sales for Clorox (NYSE:CLX) products surged as people were staying home more often, and more importantly, sanitizing became top of mind worldwide. It's unclear where things go from here for Clorox.
An encouraging vaccination campaign in the U.S. is having a great effect in bringing down infections of COVID-19. Still, the rest of the world is not as far along in vaccinating its population, and the virus is still rampant in some parts.
Whether places remain closed, operate at reduced capacity, or begin to fully re-open, the emphasis on disinfecting surfaces is still high. There is, however, one specific factor that will create an increase in demand for Clorox products, and that is the mass reopenings of schools in the U.S.
Back to school
Admittedly, schools have been reopening for in-person learning in a phased manner already. But that process is likely to accelerate in the fall when nearly all students will be learning in person again. Whether things evolve as planned and whether schools remain open throughout the fall semester is a fate left up to the direction of the coronavirus infection rate.
Regardless, there will be many schools that were vacant for the past 12 months that will now welcome back students and faculty. How is that going to drive sales for Clorox? Well, that's going to create the need to again clean surfaces and buildings regularly. And since 30% of Clorox's overall sales come from cleaning products, that bodes well for sales.
As sales moderate in products for household use, this channel could help sustain elevated sales for a little while longer before Clorox returns to its long-run more average growth rate in the low to mid-single digits.
What this could mean for investors
Share prices of Clorox are down 14.3% year to date. Investors could be anticipating a pullback in sales as vaccinations gain momentum worldwide. Still, the coronavirus pandemic being behind us anytime soon might be a bit too optimistic. Not everyone eligible for a vaccine will choose to get one, and poorer regions of the world will take longer to get vaccinated.
Moreover, even in the aftermath of the pandemic, Clorox suspects that many of the habits formed during the pandemic will remain. For instance, management thinks the work-from-home trend is here to stay, citing how much people like working from home and that, at the very least, many will want to work from home part of the week. For Clorox, that means more of its products for the home will be consumed in a mixed working environment where workplaces, homes, and schools are now getting cleaned more than they were before the pandemic.
With this most recent stock sell-off, Clorox stock is trading at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 22.64, near the lowest it has traded for since the onset of the pandemic. It might be a good opportunity for investors looking to add a reliable value stock to their portfolios. Add to that the fact that Clorox has paid out a dividend for well over 50 years (currently yielding 2.68%). And it has raised its payout every year since 1977, qualifying it as a Dividend Aristocrat. Clorox stock is certainly not going to make you rich overnight, but holding shares of Clorox over the next decade or two is very likely to make you wealthier than when you started.