Sep 21, 2007
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Playboy opens first European store in London

Sep 21, 2007

LONDON, Sept 21, 2007 (AFP) - Playboy continued its evolution from adult magazine to international merchandising brand by opening its first store in Europe Friday, September 21st at the heart of London's shopping district.

First Playboy store in Europe at the heart of London's shopping district - Photo : Shaun Curry/AFP

But customers expecting an erotic extravaganza of shop assistants parading in Playboy's trademark bunny ears, bow ties and not much else might be disappointed -- the store's focus is fashion and homewares, not titillation.

Its main target audience is women rather than men, with 70 percent of products aimed at female shoppers, although the store's opening has already provoked fury from some feminists.

"I think that the idea of the Playboy lifestyle isn't gender-specific anymore and I think that women consider themselves Playboys as well," company spokeswoman Lisa Hagendorf told AFP.

"When we talk about Playboy, we talk about the good life... it's about the glamour and the sexiness and the sophistication."

The shop, which is spread across three storeys on Oxford Street, stocks products ranging from the homely -- a hot water bottle cover branded with the firm's rabbit head logo -- to the exotic, particularly a 600-pound (860-euro, 1,200-dollar) crystal-encrusted leather jacket.

It does not sell Playboy magazine, but also features clothes, home accessories, lingerie, make-up, and an evening wear range for men and women created by Australian designer Christopher Chronis.

Playboy started branching out from its core magazine business in 1999 and now has annual global retail sales of 800 million dollars plus stores in Auckland, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpar, Las Vegas, Melbourne and Tokyo, Hagendorf said.

The first few shoppers to browse around seemed enthusiastic -- Shirley Richards, 51, said: "It's refreshing Playboy coming back all over again.

"It was just seen as something erotic before but now it's not, it's fashionable."

But some are less keen: feminist group Anti-Porn UK has started a "Bin The Bunny" campaign against the store, setting up a website which aims to expose what it says is Playboy's degradation of women.

Playboy has a long history of doing business in the British capital. In 1966, it opened its first club and casino on London's upmarket Park Lane, which was nicknamed the "Hutch on the Park". The club closed in 1982.

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