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Lovehoney's Fifty Shades of Grey Collection

Nelson Ayala

Lovehoney is launching its Fifty Shades of Grey Official Pleasure Collection in the U.S. on April 8. Developed in association with “Fifty Shades” author E.L. James, the line features toys and bondage items created to match those used by Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, the young couple at the heart of James’ erotic book trilogy.

Already a tremendous success in the U.K., the Fifty Shades of Grey Official Pleasure Collection is priced to sell and poised to break sales records for both Lovehoney and its U.S. distributors.

We’ve been inundated with requests from U.S. retailers ever since the collection launched, and we’re delighted we can now bring the Official Pleasure Collection to the U.S.

XBIZ roped in Lovehoney cofounder Neal Slateford to discuss the “Fifty Shades” collection, E.L. James’ involvement with the line and why the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon is only going to get bigger.

How did the union between Lovehoney and E.L. James come to be? How much of a coup was this deal for Lovehoney?

This is a huge deal for Lovehoney and the industry. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a massive brand; there is nothing like it in our market. We pitched for the rights against the biggest names in the business and were delighted when E.L. James chose our proposition. Our proposal clearly realized her personal vision for the range — beautifully packaged, high quality products, priced to sell.

The rights to “Fifty Shades of Grey” are owned by E. L. James. We met her licensing agent in June 2012 and they were open to the idea of an official range of adult products. It went from there. We signed the deal in September 2012. Ultimately the decision was E. L. James’s to make, and we’re obviously very pleased she chose Lovehoney. She is fantastic to work with and the opportunity worldwide for the range is enormous.

What are James’ expectations for the product line?

The most important thing for E.L. James was that her vision of the toys and bondage items that Christian Grey and Ana Steele actually used in the trilogy was brought to life. It was really important to her that the millions of readers of her books were able to buy authentic products that that truly reflected the events and characters in the three “Fifty Shades of Grey” books.

It was also key that the range was affordable for all fans of the books. It was important that the range was really great quality and clearly differentiated from all the products that were attempting to trade off the “Fifty Shades of Grey” name. We believe the best way for retailers to serve their customers is to provide the official “Fifty Shades of Grey” products. These are exactly what E. L. James put in the books.

What has consumer reaction been like in the U.K.?

Phenomenal. It’s the biggest launch we’ve ever seen in the adult industry, and it’s crossing over to mainstream retailers too. Interest in “Fifty Shades of Grey” is still enormous. Anything that E. L. James says or does gets huge press coverage. Every rumor about the films is featured in the press. Every time a magazine or blog does a sex toy round up or review, they include items from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” range. The range has given retailers another way to get customers in store; it’s given them another marketing message and a way to generate PR stories. Massive victories for everyone involved.

What are expectations for the U.S. launch?

It’s a huge launch. We’re delighted to have received massive backing from the biggest distributors in the business to ensure that the range will be widely available from launch in April.

We expect it to be as big in the U.S. as it has been everywhere else, if not bigger. America was the first country to really ‘get’ the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy and, of course, is the home of Ana and Christian.

We’ve been inundated with requests from U.S. retailers ever since the collection launched, and we’re delighted we can now bring the Official Pleasure Collection to the U.S. We will do everything we can to support distributors and retailers to ensure that this is a hugely successful line this year and for many years to come.

In the U.S., manufacturers were quick to launch “Fifty Shades” inspired sex toys once the book was a hit. Was it ever a concern for Lovehoney that the marketplace would be oversaturated?

No. Customers want to buy the official, licensed products. They are familiar with and wedded to the “Fifty Shades of Grey” brand name so they want to know they are buying the real thing, not a me-too product that’s kind of like the one from the book but not actually the one. The unrivalled brand recognition means there’s a huge mainstream market clamoring for product too.

As the official “Fifty Shades” line, Lovehoney is in an advantageous position. We have some fantastic brands in our industry, but none of them have anything like the mindshare that “Fifty Shades of Grey” has. The power of the brand is that it gives customers not just the confidence to enter the market for sex toys, but the confidence to literally enter an adult store, perhaps for the first time.

When a customer comes into a store, you can guarantee they will recognize the brand and immediately relate to the products. The Fifty Shades of Grey Official Pleasure Collection completes the circle for readers. It’s the only range that can take customers on an uninterrupted journey from book to bedroom.

We’ve worked hard to produce a great range of Fifty Shades of Grey Official Pleasure Collection point of sale so retailers can prominently display that instantly recognizable “Fifty Shades of Grey” logo. Stocking the official range is the only way that retailers can legitimately and legally display the “Fifty Shades of Grey” logo in store. We even have an official Fifty Shades of Grey Pleasure Collection TV ad they can use.

What are the more popular items in the collection?

The Inner Goddess pleasure balls have been the single most popular item, but we’ve seen strong sales right across the range. The All Mine Blackout Blindfold has done really well, both the kits, the flogger we have trouble keeping in stock. All of the bondage items are handmade so we’re ramping up production.

What’s interesting for retailers is that we often see customers buying three or four items across the range, so a first time customer might select some of the softer bondage items such as the Soft Limits wrist ties and No Peeking Blindfolds, and purchase a sex toy such as the Charlie Tango vibrator at the same time. It’s the perfect opportunity for retailers to cross sell and introduce customers to new ideas and product categories.

Are there plans to add new items?

Yes but we don’t want to give too much away. We’re launching with 20 carefully crafted lines which is plenty for retailers to get their teeth into. I can exclusively reveal to XBIZ that there’s a full line of lubricant and massage items coming in July. These are all new and original formulations but with a real twist; and glycerin free and paraben free too.

How much longer do you predict the “Fifty Shades” craze will continue?

It’s already the biggest erotic brand in the world and it’s not even a year old. That is an incredible achievement. The “Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy” has sold more than 25 million copies in the US and 40 million worldwide, and it’s still not been released everywhere. “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the first book in the trilogy, is still in Amazon.com’s top 20 bestselling books of any kind. The Trilogy is still racked out in every bookstore in the country. They are still in the New York Times bestsellers list. They are currently topping the book sales charts in South America and about to hit Asia. There’s an official new ‘Inner Goddess’ book being released next month in the U.S., and there’s daily speculation in the media about the movies.

Safe to say Universal’s “Fifty Shades” movie adaptation will keep interest flowing when its released?

All bets are off when it comes to the films. The impact will be enormous. More people go to the movies than read books. Universal Studios has signed up to make three movies, with the first one expected in Summer 2014, so it will run and run and run. News outlets and bloggers are hanging on every rumor about the script, the casting, the director.

Google “Fifty Shades of Grey Movie” and you can get an idea of the constant widespread coverage from big name media organizations, and this is before there’s anything to go on. When the trailer is released, it will be on every mainstream news show. If you think the books were big, the movies have the potential to dwarf that in impact. They have a great production team with an excellent track record behind it and E. L. James is involved with writing the script. It’s going to be a massive, massive event.

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