French sex toy sales fall as credit crunch bites

Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:47pm EDT
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By Lucien Libert

PARIS (Reuters) - Sales in the French erotic industry have fallen as the global economic crisis has driven consumers to reduce their spending on sex toys, massage oils and other kinky products, sector specialists say.

At "Big Eropolis," an erotic fair that opened Friday near Paris and bills itself as the biggest of its kind in the world, attendance was healthy but stall owners said customers were not spending as much as in previous years.

"We are hit by the financial crisis. We are not in the car industry either, so we haven't seen a drop (in sales) of 50 percent, but the financial crisis has hit us," the fair's organizer Eric Heuninck said of the industry.

There would, however, be at least as many visitors at the fair this year as last year, each paying 30 euros a ticket, he added as adults of all ages browsed at stalls selling a wide variety of vibrators, lingerie and high-heeled footwear.

"We have had a fall in turnover of about 30 percent compared with last year," said Bernard Montagud, who runs a sex toy stand at the fair which travels around France.

"Of course there's been an impact on business. Before, when a customer came and we presented the products, we always managed to sell them two or three items. Now, alas, they leave with one single item. We feel the impact," he added.

Unemployment has been rising steadily for months in France as a fall in global economic activity has prompted many companies to lay off workers, and those who have kept their jobs are worried about the future.

But to some visitors at the fair, which also included a stage on which stripteases were performed to loud music, falling sales of sex toys made no sense in the current economic climate.

"When you can't go out, you have fun at home. So maybe it (the fair) can work," said a pensioner who gave only her first name, Joelle, adding that her spending had not changed.

(Reporting by Lucien Libert and Antony Paone; writing by Francois Murphy; Editing by Dominic Evans)