Tampon sales in the UK have plummeted dramatically, but why?

Posted by
Harriet Hall

Those of us with wombs will know that tampons can come in pretty handy once a month when Flo cometh to town.

But, curiously, new figures show that women in the UK are buying five million fewer packets of tampons each year.

Research from market research firm, Kantar Worldpanel, shows that 23.2 million packets of tampons were sold in the year ending October 2016, compared with 29.4 million in the year ending October 2012.

It seems that these statistics do not come from a change in sanitary product preference, as the statistics also revealed a million fewer packets of sanitary towels were sold last year, compared with 2012. Additionally, sales of all sanitary products in the UK 2012 amounted to £236 million, compared with £221 million in 2016, with tampon sales seeing a drop of almost a quarter.

According to the firm, retailers have been forced to reduce the amount of space dedicated to tampons, in stores. “When we look at the sales, we see people have left the feminine hygiene category completely,” Kantar’s consumer insight director, Lauren Feltham, told The Independent.

But why is this happening? Tampon prices have remained relatively stable during this time.

Kantar has attributed the drop in sales to the rise in certain types of hormonal contraceptives. Figures from NHS Digital reveal that the number of progesterone-only prescriptions dispensed between 2005 and 2015 rose by 1.5 million, with prescriptions of the combined pill falling by 1.4 million over the same ten-year period.

tampon sales

Increasing number of women are also using long-lasting contraceptive methods, such as the coil, injection or implants, according to Public Health England, numbers of which have risen by 4% since 2012.

The progesterone-only pills and long-term methods which have seen an increase, are the ones which halt or significantly reduce monthly cycles, providing a possible explanation to the reduced demand for tampons.

Additionally, as we are seeing an ageing population, there could be a chance that, with more women going through the menopause, fewer sanitary products are required.

“Some long-term contraception methods mean women's periods will become lighter or shorter,” Natika Halil, CEO of the Family Planning Association, told The Telegraph.

“Many may enjoy these benefits, as well as the convenience of not having to remember to take pills.”

But Julia Bradley, Bpas’s Education Manager and Lead Nurse, told The Independent that: “With all these things, it's often not one reason,” suggesting also that sales of eco-friendly sanitary products such as the Mooncup and reusable pads could explain the change.