Although the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have ground the global economy to a stand-still; millions around the world are making the shutdown a period of boom for producers of condoms and sex toys.
A report by the Financial Times indicates that Ritex, Germany’s largest domestic producer of prophylactics; saw sales nearly double in March. The company, based in the north-western town of Bielefeld and is still operating despite the COVID-19 crisis; revealed that its sales of condoms last month doubled, compared with the same period a year ago, to 12.7m.
As a matter of fact, the report reveals that the same trend is happening in other countries.
Here in Nigeria, the situation is hardly different. Investigations carried out by 1st News show that pharmacies; which remain a critical segment of the health sector, one of the industries exempted from a two-week government-enforced lock-down; have been recording record sales of condoms. Indeed, Nigeria boasts a predominantly youthful population and many of them are keeping themselves engaged.
Also, Ann Summers, the British lingerie chain; disclosed that sex toy sales last week were up 27 per cent over last year. Its best-selling item was the Whisper Rabbit, which it markets as its quietest vibrator.
“Customers are placing increasing importance on noise while they have a full household,” the company said.
Indeed, the development is hardly surprising.
Part of the restrictions that have come into force in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic is greater emphasis on alone time.
‘‘Across the world, the coronavirus pandemic has halted social life. Shops have been closed, football matches postponed and bars and clubs shut. Strict social distancing rules in Germany and elsewhere mean gatherings of more than two people are banned,’’ stated FT.
The foregoing means that more people have to find other creative ways of keeping themselves engaged. In addition, the dictates on social distancing also means that sexually active adults; especially those who are unmarried, may even stay away from their lovers and sexual partners. In such situations, sex toys may provide a ready-made and handy alternative.
Axel-Jürg Potempa, a German sexual health specialist, said he predicted a coronavirus-related baby-boom by Christmas.
“The crisis creates new, additional bonds,” he said. Fear of Covid-19 was prompting a flood of adrenalin and a subsequent “dopamine rush” in many, which “increases desire and libido”, he told the Berliner Kurier.
Meanwhile, Robert Richter, Ritex’s managing director, said the rise in condom sales was partly explained by panic buying; especially after curbs on social contact were introduced last month; with Germans hoarding essentials such as toilet paper and hand sanitiser as well as prophylactics.
But there was also an emotional reason, he added.
“In a crisis, when you’re isolated, you seek more emotional intimacy with your partner; and sex is part of that,” he said. “And that might well lead to more condom use.”
Dildo King, a Berlin accessory supplier; said it had seen an 87 per cent increase in sales of sex toys year-on-year; since the restrictions were announced. Fetish article sales were up 94 per cent and sales of one particular product had increased more than eightfold; compared with last year.
Nevertheless, there are concerns that supply may eventually be unable to meet the growing demand for condoms; especially if the coronavirus crisis continues to derail global supply chains.
Recently, Bloomberg reported that Karex, the world’s biggest maker of condoms; has warned of a global shortage as supply falls by almost 50%; while its stockpile is set to last for just another two months. Karex makes one in five condoms globally. However, it had to shut down its three factories in Malaysia for 10 days in March; as authorities imposed strict curbs on large gatherings to slow the spread of the illness.
Nevertheless, Karex was able to win an exemption from the lockdown rule late last week; arguing that it was a producer of essential medical goods. It restarted the plants last Friday. But they are still only running at 50 per cent capacity.
“We are going to be facing a global shortage of condoms,” Goh Miah Kiat, Karex’s chief executive, told the Financial Times.
“Karex alone has produced 200m fewer units as a result of the restrictions — it’s really impacting our production.”
Other big condom-makers in China and India, he affirmed, were also experiencing shutdowns; which would have further repercussions for global supply.
With additional notes from Financial Times