Kinky! The saucy business sparked by ‘50 Shades’

Sex shops see Fifty Shades bump

The world has been aroused – in different ways – by the "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie and sex shops – including in the more reserved parts of the world -- are looking to cash in on the interest around the film.

"A different type of customer has been coming into the store that have read the book, seen the film and felt inspired and re-enact their favorite scene," Carly Ward, store manager at a London branch of adult store Ann Summers, told CNBC.

Fifty Shades of Grey will open in 60 countries on the weekend – neatly timed with Valentines Day – but has been banned in Malaysia. The film follows business mogul Christian Grey and his relationship with Anastasia Steele. Scenes of BDSM – bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism – run throughout the book and film. And fans are rushing out to buy props for themselves.

"We've made sure to stay well stocked on certain items in the BDSM genre," Steve Bannister, president of BMS Enterprises, a Canadian sex toy wholesaler told CNBC by email.

"Whips, restraints, crops, floggers, blindfolds and beads are all very popular right now…and I only see it gaining once the movie comes out."

Flogging steamy products

The U.K's "adult" retailers have been jumping on the "Fifty Shades" bandwagon with promotions and many have reported an increase in sales and footfall thanks to the book and now the movie.

Ann Summers told CNBC it had seen a "significant" rise in bondage sales, with sales of the crop – a horse riding whip – rising 80 percent year-on-year, and floggers – a paddle-like device – doubling. British retailer Harmony reported a 25 percent increase in sales from the same time the year before.

London-based Sh! Has released a special collection for the release of the film which includes satin blindfolds and bondage tape. Online retailer Lovehoney are also offering Fifty Shades themed products.


"The popularity of the book and the film, has to some extent, taken away any stigma or stereotypes that people may have previously attached to the BDSM play," a spokesperson for Sh! told CNBC by email.

Red faces

"Fifty Shades of Grey," written by E.L. James, has sold 100 million copies and box office experts are expecting it to rake in $60 million on its opening weekend. It debuted as an ebook in 2011 and quickly rose in popularity. Last week, it was top of the iBook chart, while two songs from the film made the top five most streamed tracks on Spotify.

However, the film has received mixed reactions from critics and has a 4.7 out of 10 rating on movie website Rotten Tomatoes.

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But the hype around the film is not set to die down. In a public relations stunt, U.K. DIY store B&Q released a memo telling its staff to prepare for rush of customers wanting to buy rope and duct tape. The London Fire Brigade said it was "concerned" that the release of the movie could lead to a "spike" of people calling the emergency service because they were trapped in handcuffs.

Temporary rise in sales?

Even stores known for their more "hardcore" products told CNBC they are getting interest from customers. Millivres Prowler Group (MPG) owns the Prowler and Expectations sex shops in London's Soho district. Expectations sells sex toys for more adventurous users, but the group said people are coming in to buy some of their "softer" products.

"The softer side of the business has been quite strong, so part of this could have been thanks to increasing curiousity in the fetish world, created by Fifty Shades of Grey," Simon Topham, CEO of MPG, told CNBC by email.

But will this just be a temporary bump in sales? Adult shops are hoping not and banking on the kinkier elements of sex to remain popular.

"With 'Fifty Shades' becoming so mainstream, there's now permission and a more open environment for women and mend to try new things or express something that they have always wanted to try," the Sh! spokesperson told CNBC.

- Disclaimer: Universal Pictures, which is owned by CNBC-parent company Comcast, is the studio behind "Fifty Shades of Grey."