David Gold on making Ann Summers ‘female friendly’ [Video]

David Gold discusses the important changes that were made to make the chain female friendly

Before David Gold and his brother Ralph grew Ann Summers into the behemoth it is today, erotica in the UK had a somewhat seedy reputation – sex shops were typically viewed as male-oriented, dirty and threatening.

And as Gold explains to Startups in this video, for years after the pair had taken over the business, it was no different for Ann Summers. “It was very much a male-oriented sex shop,” he recalls. “We had about 15% women customers, and 85% men – it’s the other way around now.”

The successful entrepreneur reveals it was actually the introduction of Ann Summers’ party-planning arm – organising erotica-themed girl’s nights in – that gave him the idea of pivoting the retail arm towards a female audience. “Party plan grew dramatically – in a couple of years after 1982, we went from zero to two, three, four, five million turnover,” Gold says. “I recall making the decision to actually slow the growth down. Some businesses have to be careful that if they become too successful they can actually founder.”

During the explosive growth of Ann Summers Party Plan, the retail business fell by the wayside, with Gold admitting the area was “almost ignored”. It was only when they decided to do a complete re-fit of the Charing Cross store – changing the decor to create a female friendly environment – that they knew they had hit upon something huge, and the rest is history. “Within a week of opening, we had doubled our turnover,” he recalls. “We knew then it was the way forward.”

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