Jacqueline Gold: Queen Of Female-Friendly Sex Stores Loses Battle With Cancer


Jacqueline Gold, the well known British businesswoman and the queen of women-friendly sex shops, has died at the age of 62 after a long fight against breast cancer.

As executive chair of Ann Summers, Gold helped the retail chain encapsulate a new wave of sexual confidence among women, as she played her part in making lingerie and sex toys a female-friendly mainstream business.

The company went from a handful of struggling stores to a multi million dollar business that revolutionized the approach to previously risque merchandise.

And she took that same pioneering attitude into advocating for female business leadership throughout her career.

Her death on Thursday evening U.K. time came after seven years of treatment for breast cancer and less than three months after that of her father, David, who was the joint chairman of East London Premier League soccer club West Ham United. He had died aged 86 after a short illness.

It was her father who had given her work experience at Ann Summers in 1979, when she was just 19, having bought the ailing four-store business with his brother Ralph in the early 1970s.

Unimpressed by the men-only atmosphere, she went on to bring the brand to women’s homes, organizing selling parties and bringing risque products into women’s living rooms.

Gold became chief executive of Ann Summers in 1987 and eventually took it on to more than 100 high streets and malls across the U.K. Her mantra was to turn the sex shop chain into a place for women, who she reckoned became 80% of the in-store customers, while at the same time she turned sex brands into household names.

Despite the rise of the chain, in 2020 Ann Summers hit the buffers and controversially renegotiated rents via a CVA [similar to Chapter 11 insolvency] but bounced back in 2021, making $7.8 million on sales up over 10% to $113.5 million.

Women’s Business Advocate

Once estimated to be Britain’s 16th wealthiest woman, she was awarded a CBE in 2016 for services to entrepreneurship, women in business and social enterprise, and as recently as Wednesday Gold led her regular Twitter chat to promote female entrepreneurs.

Her sister, Vanessa Gold, who is the chief executive of Ann Summers, said: “Jacqueline courageously battled stage 4 breast cancer for seven years and was an absolute warrior throughout her cancer journey. In life she was a trailblazer, a visionary, and the most incredible woman, all of which makes this news that much harder to bear.”

Her family added in a statement: “From an internship to chief executive officer in less than 10 years, her determination and commitment to creating a unique retail offering led to the creation of a multichannel retail chain, consisting of retail stores, direct sales ambassadors, and a fast-growing online and third-party business.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, notoriety went hand-in-hand with building the chain and in its early days she was even arrested at a trade show for allegedly running an unlicenced sex shop, while when Ann Summers debuted in Ireland in 1999 she was sent a bullet in the post.

Colourful Personal Life

In her autobiography, A Woman’s Courage, Gold wrote about being abused as a child by her mother’s second husband, and of battling depression.

She lost her son, Alfie, at eight months old to a rare brain condition and in 2011 her daughter Scarlett’s nanny was jailed after admitting trying to poison Gold’s food.

She was first treated for breast cancer in 2016, which returned in 2019. Since the announcement of her death, many senior retail and media figures have taken to social media to leave tributes.

Businesswoman Deborah Meaden, best known for the BBC’s Dragons’ Den TV show, Tweeted that Gold was “a visionary and trailblazer for women in business”.

Iceland grocery chain boss Richard Walker said on Twitter: “Jacqueline was a brilliant retailer, and champion of women in business. RIP.”

Forbes Business

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