Months after the novel coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China, some of its main effects are still only starting to be felt. Confirmed cases globally number in the tens of millions, with deaths in the hundreds of thousands—yet we have not seen the worst of this pandemic’s devastation.
Although there was some success in lowering the infection rate in the spring of 2020, COVID-19 came roaring back during the summer. That was a by-product of state and local governments across the U.S. rushing to reopen their economies.
The disposable glove industry is in the midst of dealing with the impacts of the pandemic. The need for gloves, along with other forms of personal protective equipment, is intense. This has caused disposable glove prices to rapidly rise. In the coming months, they will continue to go higher.
The market won’t be settling down soon
Despite the best efforts of the industry to bring supply up to the level of demand, the world still needs hundreds of billions of additional gloves. This is unprecedented and will cause ongoing volatility in the market for the rest of 2020 and well into 2021.
There remains great uncertainty about which aspects of society can return to normal, which will continue to affect demand for gloves. In North America, professional baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer have returned to, at best, mixed results. Looming in the near future is the National Football League season, with players and team officials both expressing consternation about playing during a pandemic.
One thing is certain: Stadium workers who have never worn gloves will wear them moving forward, whether or not fans are in attendance.
Schools: the wild card for disposable gloves
If schools are open, gloves will be required for numerous applications and environments for which they were not previously. Even if they are not, there will still be heavy demand for gloves from restaurants to retailers, salons to supermarkets.
Global consumption of disposable gloves was projected to jump by more than 330 billion this year, but it ultimately will be substantially higher than that. To spin up production to a scale that will meet those needs is not realistic in the short term.
Hand protection is becoming ubiquitous
The unprecedented awareness given to gloves in this pandemic is also driving demand. Every picture or video from coverage of the pandemic shows multiple images of gloves. Besides first responders, the images show average citizens wearing gloves—everywhere. Like never before, the mainstream public is more aware of hand hygiene.
We can’t predict the timing of when demand and supply will come into balance, but we do expect prices to keep rising as long as demand remains high. Taking a long-term view is advisable for anyone who sells disposable gloves.
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