A WOMAN’S INTUITION – THE PARTY WITH EXTRA TOYS – Jacqueline Gold – Ann Summers
Sadly, I heard of the death of Jacqueline Gold this morning after seven years of treatment for breast cancer. In 1981 when Jacqueline first proposed making lingerie and sex toys more female friendly, she was taken aback by the reaction of one of the company’s all-male directors who claimed that women were not interested in sex. “Obviously it said a lot more about his sex life than it did about my idea,” she later said.
Jacqueline’s story is included in the section entitled A Woman’s Intuition in the Wonder Women book – with her intuitive mind she was able to see the opportunity and turn it into something unique. It’s our pleasure to share her story with you today.
THE PARTY WITH EXTRA TOYS
In 1981, Ann Galea was working for Pippa Dee, a clothing company that sold its wares through parties organized in people’s homes. She had just arranged for a party to take place in the front room of her house in Thamesmead, Essex, when she had an idea. She decided to ask her friend, Jacqueline Gold, to bring along some of the merchandise from where Jacqueline worked.
Now, Jacqueline Gold’s merchandise was more than a little unusual. She was working for her father’s sex shop business at the time, so Galea asked Gold to bring along some sex toys, hoping it would spice up the event.
Looking back on the evening, Gold remembers: “It was like a Tupperware party, but at the end of the evening, out came the toys. The girls’ reactions were amazing. Suddenly everyone was having fun and giggling. I could see there was a market.”
Despite being just 21 and low on work experience, Gold developed a radical business plan for what was at that time effectively an adult publishing and mail order company that happened to own a couple of shops. Her radical plan was based on selling sex toys to women in an environment where they would feel relaxed – at a party in a friend’s house. Chatting to the women after the Pippa Dee party had made Jacqueline realize that, while women were just as interested in sex as men, they didn’t want to visit or be seen visiting the sex shops of the time.
On hearing the plan, one board member was supposedly outraged, declaring, “Women aren’t interested in sex,” but thanks to support from her father and uncle, Gold’s plan was given the go-ahead.
The first party organizers were recruited through advertising and seminars held in the Strand Palace hotel in London. “I had to tweak the ad,” recalls Gold. “I couldn’t say ladies only and couldn’t use erotic; it had to be ‘exotic.’”
The first Ann Summer’s Party generated £85 of sales. There are now some 7,500 party organizers who hold more than 4,000 parties every week. What’s more, Gold no longer has to advertise for organizers. Applicants come to her.
She went on to further transform the organization into a successful online business, a chain of women-friendly sex shops on the UK high street with operations in the UK, Ireland, Dubai and Australia. The company, which had an all-male board and an £83,000 annual turnover, now has a board of which 70% are women and reached a turnover in the region of £140 million in 2018. Sounds like it’s time for a party to celebrate her success.
A word or two on intuition ….
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind its faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.Albert Einstein
In the past, intuition was often seen as fuzzy, unreliable, crystal ball gazing and having no place in business.
However, it is a powerful attribute, a skill. It can be likened to a type of high-speed super logic where the unconscious mind works faster than the conscious one. To have and be willing to listen to your feelings can be useful and insightful, especially in marketing, which is not a science.
Jacqueline Gold talked about how, with no business qualifications or prior experience of running a company, she had to rely on her ‘gut instinct’ when it came to making decisions in her early years. She also relied heavily on feedback from customers – not realising at the time what an advantage that was.
It’s hardly surprising therefore that Jacqueline was an activist for women in business, and championed female entrepreneurs with the ambition to better the working environment for women.
What a Wonder Woman!