Ever since the Reckitt Benckiser (owners of brands such as Durex and Cillit Bang) story broke we have been fighting like dogs in the NTI newsroom to write it in our own inimitable way. There has been arm-wrestling, the tossing of coins, pencil-pulling (in the absence of straws) and a very peculiar and highly dangerous version of leap-frog. Neil tried to pull rank at about 10.30 this morning, but none of us bought it and he has been locked in the cupboard all afternoon and is out of the picture.
The story is that the surge in demand for disinfectants during the pandemic has led to better than expected quarterly sales at Reckitt Benckiser. The company, which doesn't sound very British, but is English enough to have a headquarters in Slough, are manufacturers of health, hygiene and home products and posted revenue of £3.51 billion in the three months to September, up 13.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis. That is a lot of Dettol, and more than enough to wash some of the crap out of the system of Donald Trump, but way too little to scrub the orange from his skin.
If Durex and Cillit Bang were verbs not nouns they would surely be placed in that order, and it isn't just hand wipes and anti-bacterial gel that has been leaping off the shelves there has been big growth in their condom range, too, up 12.6 per cent in the year to 30 September 2020. Neil thinks this is potential validation of some of the ads he has been exposed to on his Yahoo account, but we believe the only extension he should get is to the spa and leisure centre at Taylor Towers in Hampshire.
One of the national stereotypes we have to put up with on this splendid archipelago is that we are dirty, as well as drunk and often ill-clad, but a strong demand for disinfectants belies the fact of the former, even if they are only applied to our hands (and mainly just during pandemics). Reckitt Bensicker pointed to a sharp drop in demand for condoms during the spring virus lockdowns across Europe, but said yesterday (Tuesday 20 October): "Following a more challenging first half of the year, relaxations of social distancing regulations resulted in improved demand for our sexual well-being products, including Durex, which saw double digit growth in revenue." A double digit growth in Durex? Thank the Lord Neil is in the cupboard and was unavailable for comment (apart from muffled and very profane cries).
Laxman Narasimhan has been chief executive of the company since this time in 2019, appointed to revive sluggish trading after years of weak sales and a series of costly problems. The pandemic, and inexplicably horny Brits, couldn't have come at a better time for Reckitt Bensicker, with the hope that the habit of washing our hands, singing happy birthday twice, gelling-up outside Tesco and wearing a condom whenever out of the house will have become a habit over the past six months. Is this finally the time we brush off our dirty image and become known only for our drunken boorish behaviour?