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More on the Hustler Launch in Great Britain

Britain – The infamous American porn magnate Larry Flynt is to open a chain of up-market sex shops in Britain, taking on the might of Ann Summers on the high street.

Mr Flynt, the publisher of graphic top-shelf magazines Hustler and Barely Legal, has done a deal with a group of British investors to launch a chain of “erotic superstores” selling his branded range of lingerie, sex toys and leisure wear.

Mr Flynt is notorious for his magazines’ hardcore subject matter, which has included simulated gang rapes and torture, and once tried to shoot an ex-wife. But he is also a hero to some American liberals after fighting obscenity lawsuits on the basis of the constitutional right to free speech – which is how he was depicted in the film The People vs Larry Flynt, Oliver Stone’s idealised 1996 biopic, starring Woody Harrelson.

The first two stores will open in Birmingham and London this summer as part of the Hustler Hollywood chain of sex shops run by Mr Flynt’s daughter Theresa from the family’s base in Los Angeles.

Another three outlets are planned for next year for other major cities such as Manchester, Nottingham and Cardiff. And, if the stores take off, Hustler “gentlemen’s clubs” could follow, to take on the lap-dancing market.

The launch marks a fresh attempt by powerful players in North America’s vast sex industry to expand their empires into Britain – led by the lap-dancing clubs owned by Spearmint Rhino.

The LA-based chain was the first to take on Britain’s home-grown clubs, such as Stringfellows, but it is now mired in controversy. Its owners are bringing in new US managers after a series of legal battles over its licences, the resignation of the manager of its London flagship, the employment of an under-age dancer and allegations of drugs abuse.

But the consortium behind the British Hollywood Hustler stores is anxiously trying to distance its shops from the seedier side of the industry – as well as Mr Flynt’s reputation for “extreme” products.

More than £33m is being spent on turning the British stores into “lifestyle experiences”, complete with bleached wood floors, coffee bars, books and toiletries. The shops will stock erotic lingerie, male and female sex aids and sex toys such as “soft” bondage gear and costumes similar to the ranges sold by Ann Summers, the now respectable chain that runs 112 high street outlets and has 7,500 “party organisers” around the country.

Hustler Hollywood UK insists that hardcore magazines, “extreme” sex aids and all sex videos and DVDs will be banned – even though all the US branches have “over-18” pornography sections.

Marianne Tosh, the firm’s UK retail manager, claimed it is targeting the “higher end” of the market, competing with exclusive erotic boutiques Coco de Mer and Myla, which has concessions in Selfridges and Liberty.

“We will always have that stigma of being associated with Hustler magazine,” she said. “But when people come into our stores, they will find them so professional, so acceptable, they will get over it.”

Her claims were met with scepticism by Jackie Gold, founder of Ann Summers, and Charlotte Semler, co-founder of Myla. They predicted Hustler’s brand was too closely associated with male tastes in pornography to win much business from women.

Ms Gold said: “Hustler [in LA] is very much a sex shop targeted at men, selling top-shelf magazines and videos, so I don’t really see them as competition. It will do well in Soho, but I can’t see it being successful on the high street.”

And Ms Semler said:”I’m sure they’ll focus on Ann Summers. But if they don’t entice lots of women, the temptation will be to make sales to men by selling pornography.”


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