Sex sells for Lovehoney thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey
While most businesses were taking advantage of the Jubilee and the Olympics last year, one Locksbrook Road business was cashing in on another phenomenon – the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.
Lovehoney, run and owned by former Future publishing web experts Richard Longhurst, 43, and Neal Slateford, 49, saw unprecedented sales during 2012 with some of their sex toy range increasing sales by more than 200 per cent.
In March last year the company, which started in 2001, announced £15.6 million turnover for the year with £1 million profit, but these figures were pre-Fifity Shades and early predictions for the end of this financial year suggest these figures could go up 40 per cent.
"We never saw specifically 50 Shades coming, there is generally a mood that has developed. Our product is becoming slightly more acceptable and mainstream," said Richard.
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However, with 2012 behind it, which saw the firm land a licence deal with Fifty Shades' author E L James and launch its own Fifty Shades themed products, the company has a lot more to come even though it has lost its shock factor.
Richard said: "Over the years people's attitudes have changed, the TV documentary on us last summer helped, and the Fifty Shades of Grey thing has made people realise it's ok to be interested in sex, and if you can buy these books in places like Waterstones and Sainsbury's it's not something we have to be bashful about.
"One of our core values is be proud of who we are. A few years ago people might have been a bit shy but now people are generally proud of what they do and who they work for, and locally people are proud of Lovehoney."
Richard said there are plans to develop the website for mobile phones and create an app as well as expand its operations abroad in Europe, America and Australia.
He said: "Alongside that is product development increasing our own products and more licensing deals.
"We want to develop products that are of value to us – that give us a point of difference from the competition."
The company is also keen to develop a mainstream range of indulgent bathing products, and create a stir with product parties through sister company Blue Bella, which organises house parties.
With 90 staff now on the books and a warehouse stocked to the rafters with more than 10,000 products of all different shapes and sizes, Lovehoney is certainly proving it is not a flash in the pan success nor a niche market, but according to Richard there has never been plan to the company's success.
"When we first started we didn't think ten minutes ahead let alone ten years – we didn't have a business plan."
He added: "We're not into networking and business breakfasts. We've just quietly gone about our business employing a lot of people, bringing a lot of business to the area."