Drugstore DM is a ubiquitous sight in most German cities. Alongside Rossmann, it is the largest chain of stores for toiletries and non-prescription treatments.
But, alongside shampoo and toothpaste, the chain has in recent weeks started selling what it describes as an “animal deterrent spray”.
Tagesspiegel reports that the spray has been available online since May 9th and in shops since June 23rd.
“There was an increase in requests from customers who wanted to purchase the spray at a convenient location,” DM CEO Sebastian Bayer told Tagesspiegel.
“We checked it out and decided to make the animal deterrent spray available in our stores.”
The response from customers has been “overwhelmingly positive”, said Bayer.
But the fact that the spray is being sold in inner city stores has cast doubt on the idea that most customers are buying it to protection against animals.
Since hundreds of sexual assaults were reported in Cologne and other cities over New Year, demand for forms of self-defence has increased sharply.
The number of people holding “small weapons licences” – which allow someone to carry tear gas or a blank firing gun – rose by around 50 percent to 402,000 in the first six months of the year, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports.
It is also of questionable legality to use pepper spray against another human in Germany. In some self-defence cases it could be acceptable, but if third parties are injured, the user could be held legally responsible.
A spokesperson for rival Rossmann assured Tagesspiegel that they had no intention of following in their competitor’s footsteps.
“Pepper spray is essentially something used against humans,” the spokesperson said.
“We are a drug store. We don’t sell batons or pistols, or pepper spray – we leave these products to specialists.”