The Private Shop on Division Street seems a scary place to enter. There are no windows to see what’s inside, just a large wooden door and windows with provocative mannequins. Entering is almost like a lucky dip – you don’t know what’s going to be inside.
However, it seems sex shops are in demand at the moment, with reports showing how sales are rising.
And so, we caught up with Ian Sinclair, manager of Sheffield’s The Private Shop on Division Street to get the ins of what goes on in a sex shop.
We walked in to a room lit up with sex toys and gadgets. We were the only ones in there apart from an elderly man browsing the porn DVDs.
How long has The Private Shop been open for?
35 years in its total existence. I’m assuming it first opened in Soho but they’ve shut that off now.
How long have you worked here?
Do you like it?
Yeah it’s alright, there are worse jobs.
How did you get in to it?
I needed a job. There was an advert in the back of the paper, I thought: Why not?
Do you think a lot of people are embarrassed to walk in? Like, were you ever embarrassed to tell people you worked here?
Not now, but in the beginning yeah. But then it became more of a joke thing.
Why do you think people are so embarrassed though? Because it’s just sex.
It’s that cross generation bit, and luckily we are moving in to a generation where its more open and more talked about. But there are still that old generation that find it more taboo.
Do you generally get older people or younger people?
It’s a mix.
What is the weirdest request you’ve ever had?
Requests are varied. There was a guy that, whether he was or not, pretended he was from MI5 and walked round with a big vase, he came about once a month, that was interesting.
What kind of stuff did he buy?
He didn’t get anything. He just came in, spooled his story, went and then came again.
Do your friends ask you for advice then, since you’re working in a sex shop?
Yeah, apparently I’m a sex guru. But that’s not the case at all.
Well do you have any advice? Maybe for the gentlemen out there?
Just enjoy it and be happy with what you’ve got.
And have you got advice for people that might be a bit shy towards it?
We’re in the 21st century, its perfectly normal, everybody does it, it’s existed for thousands, millions of years. It’s why we’re around.
So, you’ve got DVD’s over there. Do people still buy them with the internet being around?
Yep. They’re the bread and butter. We make a lot of money off DVDs.
Do you have a particular best seller or type that people gravitate towards?
We sell a lot of lesbian stuff.
Men and women buying it?
Yep. It’s a ‘couply’ kind of film as well, lasses like watching it and sitting down with their fella.
How do you think you’re different from Ann Summers or would you say you’re very similar?
There are a lot of differences between us and Ann Summers. We’re a fully licenced sex shop and they’re not so. Also, I’d like to think we’re considerably cheaper. (Which they are!)
Can you show us around, tell us a little about your toys here?
[Laughing] Sure. Where to start… you have your basics. Basic vibrator, realistics, they come in numerous different sizes.
Why do people think that’s what girls want?
Typical thing with men, never happy with what they’ve got, they want it bigger.
You’ve got strap ons, numerous different materials, designs. Aside from your standard kind of vibes, you’ve got your wands – they are advertised as overall body massages. There are people that go the gym and come in to buy them, because it relaxes their muscles.
Then you’ve got your higher quality stuff so, things like higher grade silicone. A lot of things now that are battery powered are moving towards USBs, because everyone’s got a USB and it’s easier to charge. You’ve got your rabbits, which are g-spot and clitoral and then you’ve got body massages, mini bullets, trainers.
What are trainers?
They strengthen your pelvic flow. If someone’s just had kids, then it helps to pull everything back in to place, and you don’t leak when you sneeze. [Laughing]
Then you’ve got glass. It’s super hygienic, you can warm it up, cool it down. It’s tough and the only time you’d break it, if it you hit it with a hammer. And you’ve got a g-spot sucker. You stick it on and it just sucks.
(We had NEVER heard about the g-spot sucker before)
Do you get bored of seeing boobies and stuff?
Yeah. It became boring very quickly. It just phases out.
Is this a penis enlarger?
It is yeah.
Have you ever….?
I have never used one, no. [laughing]
Do you ever feel awkward when people buy these?
Not any more no. You have to be open minded when you work here. It’s only the extremely bizarre stuff that makes me feel a bit ‘ugh’
What type of stuff?
When they’re looking at extreme bondage and stuff. I don’t mind a little bit of light bondage, but I don’t like the idea of people sticking things into each other. But it’s all about the whole each to their own. As long as it’s got consent, it’s fine.
And finally, we can see there’s a ‘To Let’ sign outside, are you closing down?
It looks likely but it’s the decision that is taken higher in the company.
We certainly learnt a lot from this interview. Don’t think taboo, take a visit to The Private Shop, have a look around and have some fun. Sex positive guys!