Erotic novel ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, written by E.L. James, began as Twilight fan fiction (for those who are neither Team Jacob, nor Team Edward, Twilight is a series of vampire novels, now Hollywood blockbusters). But while having a ready-made fan base of millions may have given the novel a good start, Shades has become a phenomenon in its own right.
This is because Fifty Shades of Grey is no ordinary erotica. Unlike the standard boy-meets-girl fare of the Mills & Boon genre, Shades has shoved its stake firmly into BDSM territory (bondage, domination, sadism and masochism, for the uninitiated). The book has been flying off the shelves since it was published in June last year, selling well over 10 million copies worldwide. And the novel hasn’t just affected ladies’ reading habits, but their purchasing habits too.
Since Fifty Shades of Grey was first published, lingerie and sex toy retailer Ann Summers has seen a massive spike in turnover. Moreover, many of the best sellers are items that feature prominently in the book. Sales of 'jiggle balls' (Google it, and spare MT’s blushes) are up 200%. The firm literally cannot keep up with demand: many stores are sold out the moment a new consignment arrives. All because Anastasia, the central character in Shades, er… uses them once.
And it’s not all about the jiggle balls. Revenue from blindfolds is up 60%, rope ties up 35%, restraints up 15%, leather and metal handcuffs up 30%, paddles up 30%, and finally, the Ann Summers unisex butt plug, which has seen sales surge by a massive 170%. Ann Summers is also having to ramp up its range of erotic novels to satisfy these eager readers, with a 130% uplift in turnover from the channel.
But this is not the first time that mainstream media has affected business at Ann Summers. As CEO Jacqueline Gold explains: ‘The last time I saw this happen was with Sex & The City. The show gave rise to cult product, the Rampant Rabbit, which is now the most famous sex toy in the world.’
Women are escaping the general doom and gloom created by the economic strife and endless rain, adds Gold. ‘The appetite for fantasy literature has never been more in demand,’ she says. ‘And women want to escape and curl up with a book that thrills them in more ways than one.’
As far as Gold is concerned then, let the rain fall and the eurozone crumble, if it'll keep Ann Summers dominating (fnar) the escapism market...