Jelmar’s supply chain holds steady during pandemic

By Barbara Spector

CLR and Tarn-X cleaning products sold by Jelmar, a family company, are popular with consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company reports.

“Our bath and kitchen cleaner and our mold and mildew remover are both in high demand right now,” says Alison Gutterman, third-generation CEO of the Skokie, Ill.-based company. CLR’s Garbage Disposal Foaming Cleaner, Stainless Steel Cleaner and Stone Cleaner have also been strong sellers, she says.

Unlike Clorox and Lysol products, which are hard to find these days, Jelmar’s offerings are not disinfectants. Gutterman explains that Jelmar products should be used to clean household surfaces before disinfecting products are applied. 

The company, one of the first to use the tagline “as seen on TV,” introduced a new advertising campaign in March, featuring 15-second commercials shown during highly viewed programs, including some in prime time.

Since its founding in 1949, Jelmar has outsourced the development and manufacturing of its products. Unlike other makers of household products during the pandemic, Jelmar has not experienced any supply chain challenges, Gutterman says.

“We have really, really great partners that we've had for a number of years,” she says. “And because we have such a great partnership with them, they know that they need to keep us in stock. The owner of the plant has added shifts to accommodate our increase in sales.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my staff and to our purchasing agents and to our quality-control people. They really are doing a phenomenal job of making sure that we're fulfilling our orders on time. And we just keep on manufacturing and shipping.”

The company has a couple of new products in development with a targeted launch date in early 2021.

Gutterman’s staff of about 20 includes two new employees who started before the pandemic reached the United States. 

Though most of the team is working from home, “we were able to incorporate two different employees during this time and have them really feel like they're part of our culture,” Gutterman says.

To keep up morale, she has established themes for the weekly staff meetings that are held via Zoom. During one meeting, everyone wore their favorite hat. At another, staffers traded suggestions for movies or shows to watch on Netflix. Recently, colleagues offered recommendations for take-out restaurants to one of the new employees, who had moved to the Chicago area from New Jersey.

The other new staffer, who works in the plant, has had a “trial by fire,” Gutterman says. “His onboarding was, ’OK, we’ve got to ship all this stuff out; we can’t be late. You may have to work longer hours, because we've got to make sure that we're maintaining our supply chain.’ ”

To keep up morale, Gutterman gathered her team on a street near the company headquarters one day in May, “and we had a little parade,” she says.

“We had balloons. We had candy that we threw at them, and we had signs and champagne and other spirits — just to make sure they knew that we are so thrilled that they're working for us.

“I've sent out care packages with great snacks to all of our employees. We're really trying to make sure that they feel the love. We’re connecting with them all the time, and it's been really seamless.”



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