During World War II, American factories were quickly retooled to support the needs of the war: Maytag, for instance, stopped making washing machines and started making aircraft parts. Despite the mounting death toll of the coronavirus pandemic, many people are still not taking the disease seriously, with reports of bars and clubs in major cities teeming with people.
But the luxury conglomerate LVMH—which owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, and Celine—is operating as if the world is at war. The company has converted three of its perfume and makeup factories into hand sanitizer manufacturers. It says it could produce 12 tons as soon as this week. All of it will be given to French health authorities, who will in turn distribute it to 39 public hospitals in Paris.
Around the world, hand sanitizer is now in short supply because of the coronavirus pandemic. Doctors say that the substance is effective at killing off the virus, provided it is made of at least 60% alcohol. In Paris, a spokesperson for the hospital system says that supplies of sanitizer are “strained” and may soon run out. Doctors are particularly vulnerable to getting critically ill from interacting with large numbers of coronavirus patients. Besides LVMH’s effort to make more hand sanitizer, other French companies have volunteered to donate supplies.
The sanitizer shortage has been worsened by the fact that people have bought and hoarded large quantities of it early in the coronavirus outbreak, hoping to sell it at a large profit. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported about one Tennessee man who purchased 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, hoping to sell it online for multiple times what he paid for it. Amazon and eBay have cracked down on sellers hoping to make large profits on hand sanitizer, face masks, and wipes. States also have the power to punish people who are price-gouging. (This particular Tennessee man has since said he will donate the bottles, but there are others around the country who are sitting on similar stockpiles.)
Around the world, supply chains have been disrupted by the coronavirus. China, which is a global manufacturing hub, has had to shutter factories or significantly slow down production across many industries. This means than many much-needed goods, like face masks and medication, are going to be increasingly scarce. Perhaps its time for other brands to follow LVMH’s lead.