Family planning sales rise in the recession
If you're reading this story and not having sex, join the rest of the country. How else do you think people entertain themselves and relieve stress of the recession, when they go to restaurants and theaters less often and take fewer vacations?
Following a record birth year in 2007 — with 4.31 million newborns and a 2.3% birth gain among women ages 30-34 (the largest gain of all age groups), said the National Center for Health Statistics—it will be interesting to see if these fertility trends continue once the birth rates of 2008 and 2009 become known.
Family planning product sales suggest that 'couples fun' is indeed on the rise. Nielsen data for U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart) in the 52 weeks ended March 21, 2009 show that total family planning dollar sales were up by 7.9% to $722.3 million. This followed a 9.3% lift in the prior 12 months. In the two successive years, dollar gains far outpaced unit sales movement, which means that price hikes on over-the-counter, prepackaged, UPC-coded family planning products contributed much to their growth momentum.
However, category performance figures also showed a 5.3% gain in condom dollar sales, and 1.6% growth in number of condoms sold during the four weeks ended Jan. 24, 2009 versus the same-year ago period. Advances in the four weeks ended Feb. 21, 2009 were greater still: 12.9% in dollar sales and 18.6% in equivalized units sold, reported Nielsen. Even with a slight petering out in the following four weeks ended March 21, 2009 (0.6% dollar sales and 0.4% EUV sales droop), condom dollar sales posted a 5.8% advance to $74 million and 6.4% rise in number of condoms sold during the 12 weeks ended March 21, 2009.
This seems like powerful performance for a nonfoods sector at a time people are cutting back and trading down on purchases throughout the entire store. They seem to feel birth control items are essential buys, since they want to play and take measures to avoid risks of unwanted pregnancies.
But the male contraceptive segment is clearly not where the greatest sales leaps occurred. The area of promise looks to be in over-the-counter female contraceptives. This segment has more than doubled in size quickly—to $165.9 million in the latest 52 weeks from $71.8 million just two years earlier. It achieved this on one annual 78.5% dollar sales gain, followed by a 29.3% jump in the most recent period, the Nielsen data showed.
Equivalized unit volume gains weren't as sky-high, but still impressed: a 29% EUV rise in the 52 weeks ended March 22, 2008, and a 10.4% EUV climb to 5,584,647 units moved in the latest 52 weeks, according to Nielsen.
Meanwhile, dollar sales trends in the pregnancy and infertility test kits segment stayed essentially flat in both years, ending down 0.3% to $241.9 million in the latest twelve months, after a 0.1% gain in the prior year.
Fewer than one in ten households across the United States are involved in buying the family planning category, 7.5% overall, according to Nielsen Homescan data for the 52 weeks ended December 27, 2008. It is, however, fewer than 1 in 100 households that buy female contraceptives, the fastest-growing segment of all.