Durex branches into sex toy market

Durex owner SSL today aimed to double operating profits within three years as it stepped up plans to bring sex toys “from the back street to the high street”.

Durex owner SSL today aimed to double operating profits within three years as it stepped up plans to bring sex toys in Britain “from the back street to the high street”.

SSL is developing a range of three vibrators for its Durex brand to take advantage of the more liberal stance to people's love lives.

Talks are taking place for the sex toys to be stocked at Boots and other retailers after research by the company found that 30% of women in the UK own a vibrator.

An SSL spokesman said: “People are more prepared to talk about sex and have higher expectations about sex. Our aim is to take vibrators from the back street to the high street.”

It came as SSL reported a 50% rise in half-year operating profits to £19m (€27m) before exceptional gains from the sale of its medical businesses were taken into account.

SSL, which is based at Knutsford in Cheshire, is also targeting younger women with new products of its Scholl footwear brand.

Its classic wooden sandal is being marketed as a must-have fashion item, incorporating colours and new styles through tie-ups with designers such as Burberry and Celine.

Scholl sandals have traditionally been stocked by pharmacies because their special footbed exercises and tones leg muscles when people are walking.

But the footwear is now being placed on the shelves of upmarket department store Selfridges and high street chains Schuh and Office.

SSL reported turnover from continuing operations of £203.2m (€289.2m) in the six months to September 30, down slightly on the £203.9m (€290.2m) at the same stage last year.

A new advertising campaign and the launch of products such as Pleasuremax condoms helped to build 3% growth in underlying sales at Durex to £67.6m (€96.2m).

An improvement of 3.7% at Scholl was driven by demand for its new Party Feet gel in-sole, which is being rolled out globally with a target of selling six million pairs in the current year.

SSL said it expected the growth in Durex and Scholl to continue at a similar level to that achieved in the first six months.

Chief executive Gary Watts said: “We feel confident that our target to double last year’s consumer operating profit of £26m (€37m) by March 2007 is achievable.”

Bottom-line profits rose to £28.2m (€40.1m) during the period from £11.3m (€16.1m) a year ago. The increase reflects an exceptional gain of £35m (€49.8m) on the sale of its medical businesses before £23.5m (€33.4m) in charges are taken into account.

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