Ann Summers is a British multinational retailer company specialising in sex toys and lingerie, with over 140 high street stores in the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and Spain. In 2000, Ann Summers acquired the Knickerbox brand, a label with an emphasis on more comfortable and feminine underwear, while the Ann Summers-labeled products tend to be more sexual in style.
The company was named after Annice Summers, the female secretary of the male founder, Kim Caborn Waterfield. Annice Summers, who was born Annice Goodwin in 1941 but took her stepfather’s surname, left the company soon after it opened following a row with Caborn Waterfield. She went to live in Umbria, Italy, two hours from Rome.
The first Ann Summers shop was opened in 1970 in Marble Arch, London, from which it grew to six shops.
Ann Summers was purchased in 1972 by brothers Ralph and David Gold, who turned it from a standard sex shop into an established high street brand and lingerie boutique. In 1981, David Gold installed his daughter Jacqueline Gold (who is the current Chief Executive of Ann Summers) and she introduced the Party Plan concept. The retail operations for all of Ann Summers’ shops are managed from the Head Office in Whyteleafe, Surrey, and as of December 2010 Ann Summers operates 144 retail outlets across the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and Spain. The shops offer lingerie, underwear, cosmetics, swimwear and sex toys. The stores sell 2 million Rampant Rabbits, a kind of vibrator exclusive to Ann Summers, per year
Jacqueline Gold initiated the Party Plan concept in 1981. Initially, the Ann Summers parties were as much a way of circumventing regulations restricting the display of sex toys as they were a marketing tactic, but their popularity quickly grew and Ann Summers now employs over 7,500 Party Organisers, coordinated from the Head Office in Surrey. There are around 4,000 Ann Summers Parties every week in the UK. The Ann Summers parties are exclusively women-only, and include the presentation of sex toys and lingerie in the informal setting of someone’s home; usually the home of one of the attendees. It can also involve the perusal of a catalogue, and often there are party games.