Over the Christmas holidays, I returned home to my parents house. My boyfriend stayed with his parents, so we could each spend some time with our respective families, though we did try to see each other whenever we could [fortunately for us, that was a decent amount!]. Now, when I packed for home, I think I was a little optimistic. One toy. Granted, it was my favourite [and still is one of my favourites], but soon I realised this had been a little... short sighted, perhaps. I could have ordered online, however sometimes I get a hankering for a visit to a real life shop - one with shelves of things that go buzz, rows of phallic delights, and naughtiness galore. In this instance, I also figured I'd get something a little quicker if I hopped on a bus, and bought something in person. Now, I am intentionally vague about where I live, but will disclose it is somewhere in the north east of England. Between that particular mission for sexual relief and a couple of extra visits since I returned to University, I have recently visited four sex shops, three of which being branches of Ann Summers stores.
Visit #1: Ann Summers Newcastle.
The store had been refurbished not long before my visit, and while the shop did indeed look refreshed and updated, the layout was all wrong. Having subsequently passed the store, I believe this has been altered to a more appropriate layout. I say the layout was wrong, as the normally-partitioned section of the store, containing all the toys, was in the main of the shop. Now, seeing as this is a store with an open-door policy [so it'd seem], and no visible age warnings on said doors, I feel this is inappropriate.
Even worse, in my opinion, some parents had their children with them instore. Now, I have long been a little uncomfortable at the sight of little ones in sex toy shops, but when they're of an age that it means nothing to them that's one thing - the children in question were 7-10 year olds. A couple of girls, probably aged about 8, stood uncomfortably, clearly unsure where to look or stand. Another pair of boys giggled at what surrounded them. Sex toys were not adults-only pleasure givers that day, rather they seemed, in that moment, to exist for no reason other than to titilate poorly minded young boys. Needless to say, I left.
I am not suggesting that Ann Summers as a company were to blame for the fact some parents considered their shop an appropriate festive-break day trip for their little ones, however I would think better store layout would have helped. I would also have thought it wasn't unreasonable to expect the sales assistants to have a polite word with the childrens' parents or guardians to remind them of the adult nature of the chain?
Visit #2: Ann Summers Metro Centre
Now, clearly a glutton for punishment and still in need of a new toy, I boarded another bus to take the short journey to the Metro Centre, Europe's largest shopping mall.
I was comparitively far more impressed with the Metro Centre branch. There was a small child [toddler age] who had discovered dildos and vibrators looked a lot like small person toys. Still though, the inapropriate child ratio was lower. I managed to mooch through the stock and noticed a Serena vibe [review sometime soon... ish!], and seeing as it seems to have been discontinued in a few places, and was reduced in Ann Summers on the day, I thought it seemed wise to go for it. At the till I encountered my major gripe with Ann Summers Metro Centre: Misinformation. Apparently any soap or cleanser other than their buzz fresh wipes will, in fact, damage the toy. I know this to be untrue. Still, for the sake of arguement and due to my own lingering professional nature from back in the day when I held a position as a S.A. myself, I didn't point this out in front of the other customers. I'm decent, y'see?!
Visit #3: Ann Summers Sunderland
A little later, and on a different day to the other two visits, my trip to the Sunderland branch of Ann Summers was a comparitive breath of fresh air. Sales assistants who know when to let the customer browse, and when to offer assistance. An appropriately laid-out store. A generally good shopping experience. Hurrah, girls of Sunderland Ann Summers; this sexblogger salutes you!
Now, on to:
Visit #4: Nice 'n' Naughty Newcastle
Nice 'n' Naughty added me on twitter. Having had a peek at their site, I noticed they listed some real-world stores.
"Ooh, one in Newcastle?" I thought. I couldn't resist a visit, and once I'd worked out where in the city they were based [in the gay scene] I went for a look.
The door displayed a sign warning of adult content beyond, and rightly so in my opinion. Nice 'n' Naughty differs from it's high street competitor as they are a licensed sex shop, stocking many more toys, more fetish gear, not to mention a hefty collection of R18 porn.
The staff were having a chat with another customer as I entered and began to browse, the atmosphere seemed lively and friendly. While the store does feel [understandably] gay orientated in places, it's certainly not discriminatory or "only" for any particular section of the sex-toy buying public; indeed Nice 'n' Naughty are very clear that they welcome all walks of life and sexualities - a move that I believe makes them all the more fantastic.
The actual toy stock was varied, with more anal toys [yay] and fetish [also yay!] than a lot of more 'mainstreamed' shops offer. I eventually settled on picking up an extra Valentines Day present for my Mr, a particularly beautiful black tailed flogger with a metal handle. A couple of chats later, and I left, a very satisfied new customer, and strode through the city streets of Newcastle, black bag in hand.
All in all, I'd definately recommend visiting a Nice 'n' Naughty near you if you're lucky enough to live nearby; for they are indeed very nice, and oh so naughty!