Obituary: Jacqueline Gold, entrepreneur whose brand Ann Summers banned the Dirty Mac image from sex shops

Jacqueline Gold, who has died aged 62, became one of Britain’s richest women by eliminating seedy sex shops and encouraging women to talk about and enjoy sex. However, public acceptance of her Ann Summers brand was often hard to come by, and she once received a bullet in the mail while trying to open a shop in Dublin.

he first Ann Summers store was opened near Marble Arch in 1970 by Annice Summers and her occasional lover Michael “Dandy Kim” Caborn-Waterfield, a playboy who also dated actress Diana Dors. A year later, after a dispute, Annice left the business and Caborn-Waterfield sold the business to Jacqueline’s father, David Gold, and his brother, Ralph, who by this time had established themselves as purveyors of premium pornography. They expanded the business to four stores primarily serving what his daughter called the “Dirty Mac Brigade.”

Jacqueline Gold, who became known as the “Queen of Sex,” was 21 and an internship at her father’s company as a payroll clerk when she was invited to a Tupperware party in East London in 1981. So she came up with the idea of ​​selling sex toys and lingerie to women from her home.

Petite and pretty, with long straight hair and manicured nails, she threw several parties of her own before pitching the idea to the company’s all-male directors. They were doubtful. “One board member actually said to me, ‘Well, women don’t even care about sex, so why would this idea work?'” she told the BBC.

With her father’s pivotal voice, she launched the Ann Summers Party Plan, discreet but sparkling parties open only to women. The party concept not only provided customers with a crowd-free space in which to discuss their sexual needs and desires, but also circumvented regulations restricting the public display of sex toys.

An instant hit, Jacqueline explained that the business model revolved around “not what you buy, but how you buy it”. Husbands, boyfriends, and sons were relegated to their study or shed while their wives, girlfriends, and older daughters poured drinks, engaged in daring games, and explored lace tops, crotchless underwear, and willy warmers or other novelty sex toys.

Jacqueline soon became CEO of Ann Summers, expanding its presence on the high street with inviting window displays instead of the shuttered windows and garish neon lights of traditional sex shops. “Our customers are 70-piece ABC1, and that’s the image they like,” she said The times. Male customers, hesitating between the red and black ruffles, were kindly advised that “if you’re not sure, flatter the lady by buying the smaller size, she can always change it up”.

In 2000, the company acquired Knickerbox, a 1980s success story that had fallen on hard times. In 2002, there were 7,500 home party planners, while Ann Summers stores were selling a million vibrators annually to a customer base that, unlike hardcore licensed sex shops, was 75 percent female.

Today the company’s website lists nearly 90 stores across the UK and has annual sales of £113.8m (€130m). For those too shy to venture through its doors or afraid of being seen emerging with one clutched Sex and the City-Style Rampant Rabbit is brisk online business.

Jacqueline seemed to enjoy the publicity generated by her critics. A disgusted Tunbridge Wells vicar complained that Ann Summers’ township had contributed to the ‘degradation’ of the marriage; the company went to court to overturn a ban on its posting in job centers; and a cheeky poster showing a woman posing provocatively on a rocking horse was deemed a breach of its code of decency by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Sociologists have variously described the Ann Summers phenomenon as contributing to the country’s “pornification” or as expressing a liberation from prudishness. Customers who ventured further into the shops could find role play costumes like a frilly maid outfit or a police officer uniform, as well as items literary inspired by the Black Lace books about female sexual fantasies, and even “bondage starter kits”. .

Despite its role in bringing sex into the mainstream, the company had its own moments of tackiness. An advert in which Queen Elizabeth II read a sex manual accompanied by a speech bubble that read “Phwoar, one must get one” sparked a rare complaint from Buckingham Palace.

Jacqueline Gold was born on 16 July 1960 in Bromley, Kent, to David Gold, a bricklayer turned publisher and joint chairman of Birmingham City FC and later West Ham United, where he was once a promising junior, and his wife Beryl (née Hunt). Her father reportedly cried when she was born because he wanted a son.

They divorced when Jacqueline and her sister Vanessa, who became purchasing director for Ann Summers, were nearing their teens. Her father had returned early one day to their family home in Biggin Hill in Kent, gone into his study and “was standing looking out the window down at the swimming pool and there in the water was my wife and my best friend John having sex” .

Jacqueline’s mother became involved with a new partner who abused Jacqueline. As a result, sex became the source of many unpleasant memories, she recalled. Through Ann Summers, she said, “she made a conscious effort to reclaim the most painful part of my life.”

She left school in the middle of her senior year and joined ceramics manufacturer Royal Doulton, but decided against a managerial position. In 1979 she asked her father for an internship. “It wasn’t a very nice working atmosphere,” she recalls. “It was all men, it was the sex industry as we all perceive it.”

After transforming the Ann Summers brand, Jacqueline was seen as a role model for women in business. In 2019, she and her family were ranked 287th The Sunday Times Rich list with an estimated fortune of £470million and a private Learjet with GOLD on the side. However, her own taste in the chain’s products was not up for discussion. “I wear a lot of Ann Summers lingerie and that’s all I’ll say,” she explained.

Although shy in person, she was no stranger to the media and has been described by Cosmopolitan Magazine as one of Britain’s 10 Most Powerful Women. She appeared on the “Girls” team with Kirstie Allsopp, Clare Balding, Louise Redknapp and Lisa Snowdon for a celebrity issue of The Apprentice in 2008 and has been the subject of several television documentaries including Ann Summers revealed. She also published two memoirs, Good mood (1995) and A woman’s courage (2007), although the latter was withdrawn after a former employee sued for defamation.

In 2016 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Treatment seemed to have worked, but in 2019 the cancer returned. She underwent chemotherapy and was praised for her fundraising and speaking out about the disease.

Jacqueline married Tony D’Silva, an underwear manufacturer, in 1980. The marriage was dissolved 10 years later and she is survived by her second husband, Daniel Cunningham, a City realtor, and their daughter Scarlett, whose twin brother died at the age of eight months.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2023] Obituary: Jacqueline Gold, entrepreneur whose brand Ann Summers banned the Dirty Mac image from sex shops

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