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Durex condom sales jump after virus rules relaxed

By Simon Read
Business reporter

Published
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The sale of Durex jumped when social-distancing rules were relaxed in the summer, says maker Reckitt Benckiser.

The consumer goods giant said growth in its health arm, which includes condoms and "sexual wellbeing products", rose 12.6% in the last three months.

Sales of Dettol, Cillit Bang, and air fresheners also jumped, helped by workers improving their new home-office environment, Reckitt said.

Total group sales in the last quarter rose 13% to £3.5bn on last year.

"Relaxations of social distancing regulations resulted in improved demand for our sexual well-being products," it said.

During the spring lockdown Reckitt saw a sharp drop in demand for condoms as people had less sex.

However, the company suggested on Tuesday that this spring fall could have a knock-on effect on its baby formula business next year, with an expected fall in the global birth rate.

"There is evidence that birth rates will be further lowered in coming quarters as a result of behaviour changes related to the pandemic," it said.

"Our performance has been led by an increase in hygiene and health volumes," said boss Laxman Narasimhan.

Sales of Dettol-branded sprays, wipes and liquid climbed more than 50% compared to the same period last year.

Airwick and Finish continued to grow strongly, with consumers continuing to spend more time at home compared to a year ago, the company said.

Improved hygiene

Reckitt said that Covid-19 was accentuating trends such as "urbanisation and global warming, and their impact on their spread of infection, re-enforcing the necessity of improved hygiene".

It also highlighted a growing demand for self-care and a growing importance of sexual health and wellbeing.

"As consumers have sought to embrace self-care for themselves and their families, we have seen growth in preventative treatments, such as vitamins, minerals and supplements," it said.

image copyrightReuters

While many retailers have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, which has seen an acceleration towards online sales, some benefitted from lockdown.

Ann Summers, which is known for selling lingerie and sex toys, said overall sales were up 14.4% in the three months to 26 September compared with last year.

"2020 has been an extraordinary time, and as a business we have seen customers taking time to truly invest in their mental and sexual wellbeing," a spokesperson said.

"We have also seen increased engagement on our expert advice videos and content hub online, as customers seek out new and exciting ways to survive lockdown."

There was also a big surge over the summer and early autumn in people buying household cleaners, disinfectant, and bleach, according to retail analysis firm Kantar.

Sales of household cleaners grew by £38m in the 12 weeks to 4 October compared with last year. In the same time period, antiseptic and disinfectant sales were up more than 57%, while bleach and toilet cleaner sales rose almost 10%.

'Reckitt cleans up'

Reckitt's latest results were well received by analysts. ''Reckitt Benckiser has cleaned up on our obsession with hygiene," said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown.

"Our pursuit of cleanliness during the pandemic has been hugely beneficial for the group, and the signs are that the crisis is leading to a longer-term behaviour shift with consumers demanding reassurance that workplaces, shops and public transport are germ free."

Richard Hunter, head of markets at interactive investor, said: "Reckitt was already seeing the benefits of improving hygiene and self-care awareness, and the pandemic has moved growth to another level."

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  • Reckitt Benckiser
  • Companies

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