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Owner Of World Famous Lingerie Franchise Sent Bullet For Opening Dublin Store

By Darragh Berry

April 10, 2018 at 4:00pm

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Ann Summers' CEO, Jacqueline Gold CBE, has had an amazing journey to the top of the business ladder. 

She joined the company for work experience and had "no intention of staying" but hasn't left since and turned the company into the dynasty that it is today.

She made a change to the market that was so bold and outside the comfort zone of most people, that it came with a price when she wanted to open a store here in Dublin.

"Women wanted to buy sexy underwear and toys to spice up their marriages. But they were fed up with what their husbands were bringing home, and were too embarrassed to go into a sex shop."

Her aim was to make women feel less uncomfortable about the whole topic of sex and she persevered, "transforming Ann Summers from a company with an all-male board and an £83,000 annual turnover to a now board of 70% women, with a turnover in the region of £140 million".

However, her Dublin store would almost be non-existent if she had been scared by a certain present she received in the post.

She told Marie Claire magazine that opening the store in the capital was one of the biggest challenges she's ever faced.

"In the early days there was a lot of prejudice, and that’s really been a fundamental challenge of my career. 

"I was sent a bullet in the post when I was trying to open a store in Dublin back in 1999 and ended up having a fight with the Dublin council. Their parting words to me were, ‘We cannot be held responsible for what might happen to you.’"

"I have also been arrested twice for just doing my job. The most notable one was at the Women’s World exposition in Bristol. I had a few toys discreetly displayed on my stand but somebody obviously didn’t like what I was doing.

"One woman slapped her hands down on top of my catalogues in disgust and they all fell on the floor. Shortly afterwards I was arrested and to be honest they didn’t really know what to do with me – I’ve always been a bit of an anomaly. ‘You’ve got to shut this stand down or we’ll press charges!’ they told me. ‘Pack up now and leave!’ I hate anything that’s unjust and I hate being bullied, so I thought ‘No, I really believe in what I’m doing here, I’m not going to pack up and go.’  So I just carried on – that was one of my early victories.

"But today if that were to happen, it would just be a red rag to the bull for me. I feel so passionate and am so proud of what we have achieved and how far we’ve come – changing those perceptions and the whole culture. I really can’t say it held me back in any way though – it’s probably driven me forward in a perverse way."

The store on O'Connell Street closed down at the end of 2017 after 18 years in business but there are two more Ann Summers shops in Dublin - on Henry Street and in Blanchardstown Shopping Centre. 

Main image via Jacqueline Gold's Instagram.

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