The arrest of the coronavirus has paralyzed parts of the global economy, but for producers and suppliers of condoms and sex toys, business is booming.
Ritex, the largest national prophylaxis producer in Germany, saw sales almost double in March. The company, which is based in the northwestern city of Bielefeld and is still active, said sales of condoms had doubled last month from the same period a year ago to 12.7 million.
The same trend occurs in other countries. Ann Summers, the British lingerie chain, said sales of sex toys last week increased 27% from a year ago. His best selling item was the Whisper rabbit, which he markets as his quietest vibrator.
“Customers are placing increasing importance on noise when they have a complete household,” the company said.
Around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has interrupted social life. Shops have been closed, football matches postponed and bars and clubs closed. Strict social distancing rules in Germany and elsewhere mean that gatherings of more than two people are prohibited.
Axel-Jürg Potempa, a German sexual health specialist, said he predicted a baby boomer linked to the coronavirus by Christmas.
“The crisis creates new additional obligations,” he said. Fear of Covid-19 caused a rush of adrenaline and a resulting “dopamine surge”, “which increases desire and libido,” he told Berliner Kurier.
Robert Richter, CEO of Ritex, said the increase in condom sales was due in part to panic purchases after restrictions on social contact were put in place last month, with Germans retaining essentials such as only toilet paper and hand sanitizer as well as prophylactic products.
But there was also an emotional reason, he added. “In a crisis, when you are isolated, you are looking for more emotional intimacy with your partner, and sex is one of them,” he said. “And that could well lead to more condom use.”
Dildo King, a Berlin-based accessory supplier, said it has seen an 87% increase in year-over-year sales of sex toys since the restrictions were announced. Sales of fetish items increased 94% and sales of a particular product increased eightfold from last year.
“We are coming out of this crisis incredibly well, but I’m not exactly jumping for joy,” said Raiko Spörck, Managing Director. “People die and no one is happy.”
The company was now struggling to get stocks, he said, “Producers were unprepared for such an attack.”
Year-over-year increase in sales of favorite items at Dildo King in Berlin
Eis.de, another German online retailer of sex accessories, said orders have doubled since Germany introduced social restrictions: On March 23, it had the largest sales volume in its history.
There has been a 300% increase in sales of men’s and women’s aids in southern Bavaria, and a 3000% increase in demand for fancy nurse costumes, the company said. Sales of large packages of condoms, each containing 100, have increased fivefold.
However, as in all areas of activity, Covid-19 disrupted supply chains.
Karex, which makes one in five condoms worldwide, had to close its three factories in Malaysia for 10 days last month after authorities imposed strict restrictions on large rallies to slow the spread of the disease.
The company managed to get an exemption from the lockout rule late last week, claiming it was a producer of essential medical products, and restarted the factories last Friday. But they still only operate at 50% of their capacity.
“We are going to face a global shortage of condoms,” Goh Miah Kiat, chief executive officer of Karex, told The Financial Times. “Karex alone produced 200 million fewer units due to restrictions – it really has an impact on our production.”
He said other major condom manufacturers in China and India are also experiencing closures, which would further impact global supplies.
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Karex supplies a large number of condoms to international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which use them in the campaign against HIV and others sexually transmitted diseases in places like sub-Saharan Africa.
“WHO has said that condoms are the best way to prevent the spread of HIV, so any shortage will be painful,” said Kiat.