Durex on the rise as lockdowns ease but Dettol sales fall for Reckitt

The consumer goods firm also said Lemsip and Strepsil sales are back up after a weak 2020 when restrictions saw cold and flu levels drop.

17 February 2022

Consumer goods giant Reckitt saw a boost in the sales of its Durex condoms, KY lubricants and Veet hair removal products as customers enjoyed the chance to get out again last year following heavy lockdowns in 2020.

The company said sales for its Intimate Wellness brands grew last year by double digits, including popular product launches in China and growth in the US.

Strong marketing in India means its condoms are now the number two brand in the country.

There was also strong growth in its over-the-counter cold and flu division, compared with 2020 when strict lockdown restrictions globally saw a collapse in the number of people meeting each other and spreading the flu virus.

Reckitt said products including Strepsils and Lemsip had suffered from “very low incidences of cold and flu in 2020 and the spring of 2021” but were now improving, although they remain below 2019 levels.

Its Dettol brand took a heavy hit as a result of strong comparisons with 2020, when the world was encouraged to deep clean surfaces and buildings.

However, its Lysol cleaning products in the US held up well, Reckitt added.

Overall, the business swung to a loss as a major reorganisation saw it take hits from the offloading of its China business, IFCN, including a £40 million exit cost.

A dettol hand sanitiser point in a tube station
Dettol sales dropped compared with strong growth at the start of the pandemic (Matt Alexander/PA)

It also sold its Scholl business for £275 million and its Argentinian EnfaBebe brand, while plans are under way to offload its E45 creams business for £200 million.

As part of its reorganisation, Reckitt bought Biofreeze for 1.1 billion dollars (£810 million) to tap into the topical pain relief market.

A pre-tax profit of £1.9 billion a year ago turned into a £260 million pre-tax loss for 2021.

Bosses also said costs rose 11% in the year due to cost inflation, although this was offset by cost-cutting and increasing prices for products.

Splitting its divisions, hygiene performed best with sales up 1.6% in the year to £5.9 billion, including strong sales of Air Wick, Lysol, Finish and Vanish.

However, sales fell in the final three months of the year due to strong comparisons with 2020 during the height of the pandemic and restrictions.

Adjusted operating profit in the division fell 6.9% to £1.4 billion.

Its health division fell 5% to £4.6 billion, with adjusted operating profit down 11% to £1.2 billion, and its nutrition division dropped 18.6% to £2.7 billion, with adjusted operating profit down 37.4% to £289 million.

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