The clubs are shut. The pubs are shut. Tinder dates are cancelled. One-night stands are literally illegal. But, despite these obvious hurdles, coronavirus has still created a sex industry sales boom.
Long-established brands, like Sweden’s Lelo have been surprised by the surge of interest (site traffic increased by 48%, sales by 56%). “That amount of traffic is 7.7% higher even than the recent Christmas period, which is generally our busiest trading period,” says Lelo brand manager Stuart Nugent.
Czech internet sex shops are also experiencing a business boom. For example, in March the online store RuzovySlon.cz increased the sales year-on-year by 50 percent, in the first week of April even by one hundred percent. New customers are increasing, existing clients are also spending more.
“We’re selling a lot of beginner toys… all our beginner ranges are very popular. It definitely looks like people are saying: ‘I’ve got time, I might try something new,” said Adam Durčák from RuzovySlon.cz.
Demand for disinfectants has increased as well, but vibrators, womanizers, vacuum balls and aphrodisiacs are leading the sales. “Masturbators for men are sold significantly more than before,” added Durčák.
A similar trend was seen by City Realex, which run the Erotic City store network. Sales on the e-shop, however, according to its manager Jiri Vocilka, can not offset the decline in sales from physical stores.
“The obligation to remain within our home walls has pushed the whole country to find strategies to enjoy the quarantine, both alone and as couples,” says Vocilka. “There is a strong desire to be together, to connect, to make love, to discover oneself.”
The behavior of online sex shop customers has also changed in the United States.
“It reminds me a little bit of grocery store hoarding, like buying things you might need in the future but maybe only bought rarely in the past,” Sinclair said.
“When someone’s coming and buying five accessories, or three or four different sizes of butt plugs, it does seem like people are investing for the long haul.”
Tinder has seen a 12 percent increase in daily conversations in the UK, which on average in March were lasting eight percent longer compared to February.
In Italy, which is said to be around two to three weeks ahead of the UK in terms of the spread of the virus, conversations are lasting 29 percent longer than they did a month ago.
There’s a problem with condoms
However, as in all areas of business, Covid-19 has interrupted supply chains. Karex, which makes one in five condoms globally, had to shut down its three factories in Malaysia for 10 days last month as authorities imposed strict curbs on large gatherings to slow the spread of the illness.
“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.”
Karex provides large numbers of condoms to international organisations such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which use them as part of a campaign against HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases in places such as sub-Saharan Africa.
“The WHO has said that condoms are the best way to prevent the spread of HIV, so any shortage is going to be painful,” Mr Kiat said.