The German economy has taken a hit from the coronavirus pandemic, but it may come as no surprise that its pharmacy trade is not only unaffected by the pandemic, it appears to be driven by it.
Figures from Germany’s government statistics agency Destatis show that the turnover at the country’s roughly 21,000 pharmacy stores rose 3% in the first nine months of 2020, compared with the same period the previous year.
The report said the coronavirus pandemic has helped contribute to increased sales at pharmacies throughout the year.
It said that in March 2020, when Germany closed many shops to stop the spread of the virus, pharmacies enjoyed the highest monthly turnover since 1994. The data also showed there had been an 18.5% increase in sales compared to the previous March.
Pharmacies are of course among the businesses deemed “systemically relevant” allowed to continue operating throughout Germany.
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However, food, beverage and tobacco product retailers posted a higher gain than pharmacies, experiencing a 5.1% increase in the first nine months of this year compared to last year. The over-the-counter retailer overall fared better than might have been expected, with turnover only down 0.2% compared to 2019 levels.
COVID-19 has changed the buying habits of Germans in other ways, said Destatis. In mid-March this year, there were clear cases of stockpiling of certain essential items.
When the pandemic first hit Europe, Germans were buying more toilet paper, soap, and paste for disinfecting than usual, often emptying supermarket shelves.
The latest figures show another increase in sales of these products as the second wave started, albeit on a smaller scale so far.
For the week starting October 12, sales of toilet paper were 89.9% higher than average in the months before the pandemic, while sales of disinfectant gel were up 72.5%. Soap was up nearly two-thirds (62.3%), flour sales were up by more than a quarter (28.4%) and yeast sales were more than a third (34.8%).