SEX shops have often been perceived as grubby little establishments, tucked away on back streets and attracting fidgety old men.
But one store in Chester has spent the last 15 years trying to banish this image and now boasts a colourful shop front and sponsorship agreements with local football, cricket and netball teams.
Nice ‘n’ Naughty, on Brook Street, first opened its doors on August 31, 1999, and fought the then Chester City Council over demands it had to black out its windows.
Managing director Simon Prescott won the battle and has seen the firm expand its empire to 11 stores from Brighton to Newcastle.
He told the Leader: “I never would have thought of myself as a pioneer when we challenged Chester City Council's view in 2001 that adult stores should have blacked out windows, it just seemed right we be allowed to put mannequins on display. In reality Nice ‘n’ Naughty set a new trend, which was not only followed by our other stores, but many of those in the industry.”
He said the company’s client-base has noticeably changed, with buyers coming from all walks of life and including many women and couples.
The industry has been buoyed by global trends including the success of the Fifty Shades of Grey novels, which have brought previously taboo sexual activities into the main stream.
Mr Prescott said: “Who would have thought that Fifty Shades would have had such an effect on changing bedroom etiquette? Fortunately our suppliers recognised this and helped us shape our product ranges to meet that demand.”
Barriers and taboos have been broken down and people generally are more open and accepting about what goes on behind bedroom doors, he said.
The Nice ‘n’ Naughty mission statement reads: “Our mission is to help people enjoy completely fulfilling sexual relationships by stimulating their imaginations and giving them the opportunity to try different, exciting experiences.
“Our ethos is to stretch the boundaries of sexual possibilities and break down taboos.”
Mr Prescott attributed the company’s ongoing success to its bright and friendly shopping environment, and to its staff who undergo “rigorous training in all aspects of product and service”.
He said: “We are fortunate in having staff that genuinely care about customer service and enjoyment of our products.
“While it would be wrong to single out any individuals, it would be equally wrong not to mention Trish Murray, the operations manager, who makes things tick on a daily basis.
“She is a mother hen to our staff, a source of council to our suppliers and an invaluable asset of the company.”
Among its successes, Nice ‘n’ Naughty has been named UK Retailer of the Year six times, received an acclaimed ‘Investors in People’ award and has sought to work with the community sponsoring sports teams and taking part in charity events.
“I would like to thank our customers for their patronage over a memorable fifteen year journey together and I eagerly look forward to the next 15 years,” added Mr Prescott.