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'Fifty Shades of Grey' boosts adult stores

Cupid’s Boutique in Deer Park displays items mentioned

Cupid’s Boutique in Deer Park displays items mentioned in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” book series that are stocked by the shop. (July 9, 2012) Credit: Steve Pfost

"Fifty Shades of Grey" is translating into blacker bottom lines at Long Island's adult novelty stores.

Many adult stores around the Island said sales are up 20 to 30 percent, primarily in bondage-related items mentioned in the erotic novels. The books have sold more than 20 million copies worldwide since author E.L. James' first installment came out last year.

"By now, you pretty much know when they request a certain item, when someone says I want a black satin blindfold or a feathered tickler, that they've read the book," Jean Cerce, owner of Sensual Lingerie Shop in Massapequa, said.

"What 'Sex and the City' did for the shoe business, 'Fifty Shades' is going to do for the adult entertainment business," Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at Port Washington-based NPD Group, said. "If it's done right, this becomes a lifestyle trend. It's like those people that became 'Sex and the City' fans and then shoe addicts. They didn't necessarily give up shoes when the series ended."

Though many store owners say they started to see business pick up at the beginning of the year when the third "Fifty Shades" book hit stands, a resurgence in interest was generated in April when the books were republished by Vintage Books. The series chronicles a romance between a young woman and an older man, and includes themes of bondage and sado-masochism.

Stores say the biggest sellers are bondage-related items including feathered ticklers, handcuffs, satin blindfolds and other sex toys like . . . well, if you've read the book you know.

"We can't keep them on the shelves," Frank Jay, an employee at Cupid's Boutique in Deer Park, said.

"Before reading the book, a lot of women had no idea these things existed," said 40-something Massapequa resident Lois E., who did not want her last name used, as she browsed recently at Sensual Lingerie. Since the books have become so mainstream, they've opened the public consciousness to the idea of fetishes, she said. "It just makes it more acceptable, it makes women feel it's all right to be a little kinky."

Both Cupid's Boutique and Sensual Lingerie have store displays with items from the book. And while the book has especially appealed to women, it's not just women who are buying.

"I see a lot of husbands coming in with a list from their wives, like a grocery list," Cerce said with a laugh.

Online adult novelty store Babeland, headquartered in Seattle with locations in SoHo, the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, has created a "Fifty Shades of Grey Indulge Your Fantasies" kit that includes a copy of the book as well as items referenced in it, such as whips and restraints. Chief executive Claire Cavanah said creating the package made sense after the spike in interest in bondage items. Babeland has sold about 160 kits since April.

Cerce said that aside from the increased traffic her store is getting, she is also happy that the books have made sex a more mainstream topic of conversation.

"I like that this book has brought a newfound interest in sex," she said.

"Particularly with couples with children, it's brought everyone back to where it's healthy."