Route to the top

When Ann Summers was bought by Jacqueline Gold’s father and uncle in 1971, they never imagined it making the journey from sex shop to high street mainstay. 

Hired on work experience in 1979 – when she was just 19 – Gold quickly moved to the centre of the company, revolutionising sales with Ann Summers parties.

The massive increase in sales did not go unnoticed. She became CEO in 1987, and began an aggressive expansion into the high street from the ghettoised roots of the business. By 2008, there were 117 stores around the world.

Key achievements

  • Starting as a work experience girl, eventually guiding Ann Summers to revenue of £115.7m in 2010-11.
  • Overcoming the crude, sexist prejudices of seventies Britain to rise to the top of an industry once thought seedy.
  • Launching the innovative Ann Summers Party Plan in 1981, taking inspiration from Tupperware parties. This led to huge sales growth.
  • Overcoming great opposition from religious conservatives to open Dublin’s first Ann Summers store in 1999. The store is now a tourist attraction.

Lessons for your store 

  1. Any image can be changed – Ann Summers took over an industry once thought seedy by moving it into the mainstream.
  2. Take inspiration where you find it.
  3. Resilience – Gold has overcome both a troubled upbringing and attacks from the media.


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