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It has been credited with breaking Harry Potter’s hold on Amazon in the UK and stimulating sales of British classics such as Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
Perhaps less surprisingly, the success of the Fifty Shades of Grey erotic trilogy has also been thanked for rising sales at Ann Summers, the lingerie and sex toys retailer.
The group said retail sales of sex toys rose 78 per cent in July compared with the same month last year, an increase it attributes to the publication of the trilogy. Revenue at the chain had declined 2.3 per cent to £115.7m in the 12 months to June 25 last year.
The retailer, which has 150 outlets in the UK and Europe, said that sales in its Cardiff and Liverpool stores have doubled, while those in Slough are eight times higher. Online sales have increased 60 per cent.
“The appetite for fantasy literature has never been more in demand,” said Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of Ann Summers. “It comes as no surprise to me that Fifty Shades of Grey has become such a phenomenon.”
Earlier this week it was revealed that sales of the trilogy – which comprises Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels Fifty Shades Freed and Fifty Shades Darker – have overtaken sales of JK Rowling’s entire Harry Potter series on Amazon.co.uk.
EL James, the trilogy’s author, has become the most popular writer in the online retailer’s 14-year UK history, selling more than 4m print and ebook copies since the series’ release in March. The popularity of Fifty Shades may also have been aided by the widespread adoption of ebooks which allows bashful customers to easily disguise their reading habits.
However, Ann Summers said it now sells 5,000 books each week, a figure it described as “unprecedented”. Book sales have increased 40 per cent compared with the same period last year.
“Women want to escape and curl up with a book that thrills them in more ways than one,” Ms Gold said.
The chain, which also sells its goods via a direct sales model in which representatives sell to customers in their own homes, has also launched Fifty Shades-themed events.
Around one quarter of 3,000 consumers polled had read the book, according to consultancy Lightspeed Research. Of this, another quarter of women had decided to buy new lingerie.
“There’s clearly a buzz about Fifty Shades at the moment and our results indicate that the subject of a book can directly influence consumer behaviour,” said Ralph Risk, Lightspeed’s marketing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
“It can only be good news for that market.”
● Limited Brands, the US retail group which owns the rights to the La Senza and Victoria’s Secret lingerie brands, chose Westfield Stratford City in London
as the location for the first outlet stocking the complete Victoria’s Secret range outside North America. It is expected to open a flagship store on Bond Street later this month.