Adult Toy Sales Going Up in Britain

Tod Hunter
LONDON — The adult toy market in the U.K., currently worth $422 million, is expected to quadruple to $1.69 billion by 2014, according to the Hewson Group, a British market analysis company.

"The reasons are, as you would expect, complex. Excitement and enhancement in sex would be simple answers," said Judy Pearce, Hewson Group research director.

In London, sex toys have migrated from the seedy confines of Soho to places like east London arts district Hoxton Square, where Sh!, a boutique store "owned by, run by and dedicated to women," opened in 1992. At Sh!, products available for sale range in price from a lubricant sachet for $1.69 to a 10-inch silicone dildo priced at more than $300.

"We have regular customers who come to the store and happily spend $500-$800 in an hour," store manager Renee Denyer said. "The online business is also good, but are looking ways of optimizing it. Customers prefer to visit the shop as they get to meet the Sh! girlz, drink cups of tea as they browse, squeeze or touch the goodies."

In upscale shopping area Oxford Street, Harmony and Ann Summers storefronts stand between clothing shops and department stores.

Sarah Marchant, sales and customer care assistant at Harmony, has been there for two years and says that adult toy customers are people with money and steady jobs.

"Everyone's sexuality is vibrant and people from all walks of life come to the shop and buy what they want," she said.