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Durex condom sales are surging as COVID-19 restrictions ease

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Condom sales have soared this spring as COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease worldwide, according to a UK-based pharma giant.

Reckitt Benckiser said Wednesday its Durex brand of condoms, lubricants and sex toys notched a “double digit” increase in sales in the first quarter compared to a year ago as lockdowns eased in key markets.

Demand for the global brand is especially strong in China and parts of the US and Europe where coronavirus infection rates have declined, restrictions have eased and “anxiety” about the pandemic has lessened, Reckitt executives told analysts on a Wednesday earnings call.

“Looser ‘stay at home’ restrictions in China, compared to the first quarter of 2020, have for example, helped drive strong growth in our sexual wellbeing category,” the company said in a statement.

Demand for condoms began to return late last year when Reckitt’s Durex sales surged 13 percent in the fourth quarter after nosediving for most of 2020.

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Boxes of Durex condoms and bottles of Durex sex lubricant are displayed for sale at a supermarket in December 2019 in Hangzhou, China.
VCG via Getty Images

Reckitt chief executive Laxman Narasimhan flagged Italy, where sex “had gone down a lot,” as well as the UK and elsewhere where people had stopped having casual hook-ups and even established couples were having less sex, according to an April 2020 BBC report.

By fall, however, Reckitt noted in an earnings report that “relaxations of social distancing regulations resulted in improved demand for our sexual well-being products.”

Workers arrange condoms in a production line at a factory.
Workers arrange condoms in a production line at a factory.
Getty Images

Meanwhile, sales of cold and flu products — which Reckitt sells under brands including Mucinex, Nurofen and Airborne — are tanking, with “incidences” of illnesses down 90 percent.

Reckitt said it expects a “moderately stronger” cold and flu season in 2021 and 2022 as more people go back to school and work, and social distancing is relaxed. 

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