BATH, U.K. — Sales of toys and bondage gear have bee nrising as couples across the world copy the bondage sex games of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, the iconic fictional couple from the erotic series "Fifty Shades of Grey."
With the "Fifty Shades" movie on the cusp of release, leading novelty purveyor Lovehoney predicts that the overall Valentine's Day spend across the industry will be around €75 million in 2015 — more than $1 for every adult in the U.K.
Lovehoney's turnover doubled following the release of the books three years ago. Capitalizing on the movie’s similar effect, the company has spent $1.5 million on TV advertising for Christmas and Valentine's Day to grab a bigger slice of this booming market.
Lovehoney boasts the official license for all Fifty Shades pleasure products and pharmacy items — the only ranges approved by “Fifty Shades” author E L James.
"We are seeing similar surges in spending to three years ago,” Lovehoney co-owner Richard Longhurst said. “The whole market for erotic goods changed virtually overnight when ‘Fifty Shades’ took off. Our turn-over doubled in the space of year. Suddenly women were reading erotic fiction on the beach and on trains and no one was batting an eyelid.
"The early signs suggest the film could spark an even bigger surge in sales. Around 80 percent of the books were read by women, but the audience for the film is expected to be split more evenly amongst the sexes. Half of Lovehoney's customers are men, and millions of men are going to be introduced to the Fifty Shades brand for the first time by the movie.
Longhurst predicts that men will go see the movie with their partner and will consequently be inspired to experiment with sex toys, especially those featured in the film.
“You also have to remember that a lot of people never read books and will also be introduced to ‘Fifty Shades’ for the first time next year through the movie,” he added.
Harmony, which has three adult stores in London, worked closely with Lovehoney’s Official Fifty Shades of Grey product team to recreate a bold Red Room-inspired window display in their flagship Oxford Street store. The window includes handcuffs and whips, from the Official Fifty Shades of Grey Pleasure Collection, in full display on one of London’s busiest shopping streets.
Rose Crompton, Harmony’s spokeswoman, also said they were seeing similar sales surges to Lovehoney as excitement about the film grows.
"It has been a fantastic start to 2015 and we are expecting our biggest Valentine's Day ever, thanks to return of Fifty Shades fever,” Crompton said. “Our Red Room window display is already catching the attention of passers-by and fuelling their curiosity when it comes to trying bondage products this Valentine’s Day."
Jim Primrose, Lovehoney's general sales manager, said that the boom in the U.K. is being mirrored abroad, explaining, "’Fifty Shades’ is the biggest brand in the world. It has been great teaming up with Harmony and Net1on1 for the Oxford Street display. We have had a fantastic response from retailers right across the world, who have really got behind the brand.
"The official merchandise is creating a buzz in all corners of the globe, from Chile right to across the Americas to India, where we have just signed an exciting new distribution deal with Digital E-Life."
Fifty Shades of Grey author E L James be on-hand at the exclusive erotic boutique Coco de Mer in London's Covent Garden on Tuesday, Feb. 3, for the launch of the Fifty Shades of Grey Red Room Collection.
It is a limited edition range of high-end bondage products priced from €60 to €150. Harmony will be one of only a handful of high-street stores to stock this exclusive range.