Condom sales shoot up after lockdown was hard on Durex as we ease into freedom

Condom sales have seen stiff growth in countries where lockdown has softened, Durex says.

The pandemic was hard on the contraceptive manufacturer, but being gently eased into something resembling normality has provided some lubricant to and helped sales to rapidly rise again.

There was a mini-climax last summer when freedoms were restored, but sales became flacid again as the second wave brought about enforced abstinence.

The makers of Durex, the Reckitt Benckiser group, hopes the vaccine will mean that sales stay up for longer and their firm growth continues.

However, as condom sales shot up into the double digits, other parts of the business did not fare so well.

A weak flu season saw fewer people reach for cold remedies and declining birth rates hit sales of baby formula products.

Sales fell 13% in its health business, which makes Mucinex cough syrup and Dettol soaps, due to a 90% drop in cases of cold and flu as people wore masks and relaxed social distancing measures in markets with high rates of vaccination.

Chief Executive Laxman Narasimhan said that in markets with few cases and high vaccination rates, people have eased off on washing their hands or using hand sanitisers, although use was still higher than before the pandemic.

For example, sales of Dettol showed strong growth in India, but declined in China, which has nearly re-opened.

The current severe wave of Covid cases in India hasn’t yet had an impact on the company’s sales, Mr Narasimhan said.

The Slough-based company reported a 4.1% rise in like-for-like sales for the first quarter, higher than the 2.4% growth analysts had expected.

As well as Durex, there was double digit growth for Airwick fresheners and Finish dishwasher pods.

‘This is a great start to the year, well ahead of consensus, and shows that disinfectant demand remains very strong even this far into the crisis,’ said Alicia Forry, an analyst at Investec.

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