Bahrain’s love doctor
A few months back, Kipp reported on the Gulf’s first sex shop. How does such a store exist in the region, and who are its customers? Atique Naqvi went to find out.
September 30, 2010 4:42 by kippreport
About 15 percent said they had tried such products and “loved” them, while 31 percent said they would like to try pleasure-enhancing paraphernalia.
But what people say about sex in a survey and what they do in their personal lives can be very different. Ahmad, a mother of three, says that most of her customers come from Saudi Arabia (a theocracy), followed by the UAE. Most buyers are women, she says, because they feel comfortable in discussing their intimate needs and the products with Fashion House employees, all of whom are women.
About 60 percent of the customers visit the store in Bahrain and the rest order products through the company website, she says. Ahmad is upbeat about the future of sex products in the region. The number of buyers has gone up considerably, she says, adding that word-of-mouth publicity has played a big role in popularizing Fashion House.
The road to success, however, has not been without hurdles for the businesswoman. Customs officials in Bahrain have tried many times to block the delivery of products, says Ahmad. She even spent a night in jail early this year after an alleged spat with a customs officer.
Although Ahmad’s store has pleasantly surprised and shocked many in the region, sex products are available across the Middle East in one form or the other. In the UAE, for example, pleasure enhancement creams and vibration rings are sold at petrol stations. A salesman, requesting anonymity, said the sales of creams and rings increase substantially during weekends and public holidays. Most of the buyers, he says, are men.
A press report recently said that some branded lingerie stores in Dubai’s upscale shopping malls were selling sex-related items, and most of the buyers in such outlets were Arab women. Gulf Business Tradeholding, one of the leading business-to-business websites in the Middle East, advertises sex products in a section for adults in the region.
The United Kingdom-based SSL International’s Durex is one of the most visible sex products’ brands in the Middle East. The regional manager for the Middle East for SSL International, Alex Bazan, says Durex sells condoms and personal lubricants in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, and Oman.
The brand has enjoyed strong growth in this region in the past five years. Before the financial crisis, the company’s year-on-year sales growth was 10 percent. In the past two years, following the downturn, year-on-year growth has been about five percent, says Bazan.
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