Back when circuit breaker was announced in March, most of us, especially the kiasu people chiong-ed to the nearest supermarkets to stock up on food and toilet paper.
For the Malaysians, particularly the ones living with their partners, it would seem there’s something else they seem to have bought by the truckload.
You guessed it.
I mean if there’s nothing else to do while stuck at home, no one is going to blame you if you have a romp in the hay.
Going Online Boosted Sales
Most of us know that businesses had to go online if they wanted to survive the lockdown period. It would seem that the condom manufacturing industry in Malaysia had to get on the bandwagon.
Karex, the world’s largest condom manufacturer, saw online sales for its condoms went up by seven-fold during the first half of the year when the movement control order (MCO) started in March, said CEO Goh Miah Kiat.
Founded in 1988 during the economic crisis, two brothers turned their father’s rubber plantation into a condom factory to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. A more thorough look at the history of Karex can be read here.
Due to the MCO, it would appear that condom sales in physical stores dropped. But it seems to now have recovered and was even reported to have gradually increased.
In an interview with CNA, Mr Goh said that with the pandemic looming overhead “a lot more people are engaging in bedroom activity because there’s nothing else to do”.
He also said that it might not be a good time to have a baby since times are “unpredictable”.
It is reported that Karex’s online channel for its house brand products did not do well in sales and was more of a “presence” for the brand. Kind of like a “showroom”.
“We’ve seen a (more than) 600 per cent increase online on our e-commerce channels. We’re starting to see a trend that’s moving from offline to online,” Mr Goh said.
So, just like what any sensible company would do, Karex decided to step up its online marketing game.
And it totally paid off because the Karex’s house brand condoms on e-commerce platforms Shopee and Lazada have jumped seven-fold.
Previously, sales on Shopee and Lazada were only about RM7,000 (S$2,295) a month. But since MCO started, sales have gone up to RM50,000 (S$16,390) a month, said Karex spokesperson Ian Leong.
According to Leong, this is only a small representation as other chain stores also sold the same products on their own online platforms. Unfortunately, these chain stores do not share the breakdown of physical versus online sales with Karex.
COVID-19 Affected Supply
Due to COVID-19 and borders being shut down, many manufacturing industries were disrupted, which also included the condom manufacturers.
It was reported earlier in The Straits Times that Karex had to close three of its Malaysian factories when the MCO started. They resumed operations on 14 April but only with 50% of its usual workforce.
This meant that from mid-March to mid-April, Karex produced 200 million fewer condoms than usual.
At that time, Mr Goh said that other producers would be disrupted as well and getting condoms to the market would be difficult due to transport problems.
Hence getting your hands on contraceptives would also be difficult.
Physical Sales Still Strong
While it’s a fact online sales are strong, it still comes as a surprise to Mr Goh and his team.
But according to him, it makes sense because people might be shy to buy condoms at a physical store. He explained that when you’re buying condoms from the comfort of your home, you get privacy and you get to ask the Karex team for suggestions and the difference between the various products.
According to sales and data feedback, 24-hour convenience stores are still Karex’s top retail channel. Most of the sales took place at night. Well, for obvious reasons.
Mr Goh is also excited at the potential the condom industry has to grow online. He said that “it’s so much easier to penetrate (pun intended?) the online market.” It would also be easy to come up with campaigns with how fast information flows.
In case you’re like me and not very knowledgable when it comes to condoms, Karex is well-known for their limited edition condoms that come in novelty flavours.
In 2016, the durian flavoured condoms were introduced.
The following years, Karex introduced nasi lemak, teh tarik and rendang flavours were subsequently rolled out.
Maybe, just maybe, some people ordered them and thought that they were actually food?