Big shot at making good vibrations
Few of us seem willing to own up to the hype that has accompanied the book Fifty Shades of Grey - it's the world's only best-seller nobody has ever admitted reading.
That is, nobody except Lloyd Perry, purveyor of Big Richard condoms and other sexual paraphernalia. Mr Perry believes the book has sparked a new market for sexual adventure, even a new sexual Zeitgeist. Society is more open now about sex aids and toys as long as they're sophisticated and classy. Perry has seen the future and it may make him a lot of money.
He has come a long way since he brought out Big Richard condoms from his North Sydney-based offices. In 2010, his aim was to take on Ansell and Durex at their own game - bring in a bit of Aussie humour (Perry launched the brand that targets "men with big egos") and move in on a staid market.
Things haven't quite worked out that way for the man who gave us subscription condoms including the "shag pack" and the "superman pack". He's come back from the brink. He's pulled out of retail distribution, moved into sex shops and online and brought out a sex app and toys. In short, Big Richard Industries has been forced to change with the times.
Mr Perry admits the company was a victim of retail reality. Most condoms are sold at Coles and Woolworths - and without big television spending to generate awareness of the brand, they would not stock his products. When a major investor reneged on vital funds - around $160,000 - the business stood on the brink.
"We were down to our last dollar and it became all about managing creditors," Mr Perry says. "I sat down with them and we worked at rescheduling the debt. I told them if they called the debt in now all I could do was send them 10,000 condoms - so I hope you all have a lot of sex."
Then a Ghanaian contact approached him to export condoms en masse to the West African market and might just have saved the business, he says. "We now have a distributor and licensing partner over there ..."
He knows this is a perilous business and is realistic about the difficulties of making a new (and somewhat off-the-wall) business like Big Richard a success. Originally, the Big Richard brand was all about providing condoms for the youth market. More than 50 per cent of condoms are bought by 16 to 24-year-olds.
"We felt there was no youth brand out there that was authentic and resonated with that audience. We were active at festivals and in nightclubs and wherever youth congregated ... with social media as well."
Mr Perry changed direction when he realised there were better margins selling upmarket sex toys and marital aids. His big pitch now is a joint venture with a US medical company to launch a new vibrator known as "Afterglow", which will be available from August.
"Our brand has evolved into an adult brand which is upmarket and accessible," he says. "That's the direction we want to take it. It's the Fifty Shades of Grey effect - the taboos around sex are reducing every day. There's no reason why more people shouldn't enjoy sex aids without hang-ups and taboos."