Zika fears causing bug-repellent clothes to sell out


On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decided to shift $81 million in funds from other projects in order to develop a vaccine for Zika.

As Zika virus cases grow, nervous consumers are running out to buy bug-repellent clothing causing apparel brands to run out of stock.

“In May and through July, we sold out of a lot of product, which is indicative of the heightened demand around the product,” said Brian Thompson, ExOfficio general manager. ExOfficio said it has seen a 50 percent increase in sales as a result of the Zika virus.


“The challenge for us is that it’s a pretty intensive process for us to bring the product to the market,” said Thompson. “There is a six-month lead time and so it is hard to react quickly.” The company is getting their reorders in and meeting demand.

ExOfficio saw its sales spike when cases in South and Central America were first reported. Sales held strong through the spring and summer, but when cases were reported within the states, sales jumped again.

ExOfficio was the first U.S. company to offer insect-repellent clothing to consumers using EPA-registered Insect Shield technology. The apparel retains 92 percent efficacy for the life of the garment, which is generally pegged at 70 washes.

Insect Shield was founded in 2001 and the technology was originally developed for the military. In 2002, it was used by the West Point Military Academy on cadet uniforms. In 2004, the company’s technology was expanded to the consumer market. They partner with major outdoor apparel brands like Orvis, REI, Eagle Nest Outfitters and more.

L.L. Bean also sells a variety of bug-repellent clothing. “Our No Fly Zone apparel has realized steady growth over the last few years as awareness of insect-borne illnesses has increased,” said L.L. Bean spokesman Mac McKeever. “This year in particular, we’ve seen very strong double-digit growth in our No Fly Zone apparel. Our apparel has always helped protect outdoor enthusiasts from the elements, including biting insects.”

L.L. Bean uses Burlington Labs for its permethrin-based insect repellent technology. The same compound that Insect Shield uses. Burlington calls its product the No Fly Zone.


Demand has jumped over at White Sierra, an outdoor apparel company that is family-owned and based out of Sunnyvale, Calif. Larry Tsui, vice president of sourcing and production, said, “We’ve worked with Insect Shield technology for about five to six years and we’ve definitely seen an increase in demand on the e-commerce side.” The company has sold out of some styles very quickly this year and Tsui said they had even increased the number of bug-repellent styles this year over last.

As of Aug. 10, the Centers for Disease Control has reported 1,962 cases of Zika virus disease in the U.S. That includes 510 pregnant women with evidence of possible infection. As of now, there is no vaccine and most people who are infected have mild symptoms.