Passion, a sex shop on City Road, Cardiff is a very colourful place to find yourself even though everything is demonstrably pink at first glance.
Set up by business woman, Faith Atwell in 1999, the shop has gone from strength to strength even through a recession because let’s face it, people still have sex even if there are no pennies in their pockets and sometimes that requires a little helping hand and that is where Passion comes in. The shop itself provides a huge array of products, from dildos, butt plugs, cock rings, right up to a full on PVC cat-suit but where did the need for such things arise and how did Faith tap in to this rather niche market?
As an ex-marketing consultant, Faith was looking to set up her own business when a sex toy catalogue meant for the previous tenant arrived through the letter box. In this case curiosity did not kill the cat because after having a look through, Faith had found her calling and simply thought, “I can do so much better than this” and so Passion was born.
In order to enter a world of such taboo meant Faith met some serious opposition from those around her and to tackle that kept to the mantra of “this is a business choice, not a lifestyle choice. I’m a business woman, not a madam”.
Facing the taboo of such an industry is something that Faith has to challenge every day, she says “people are scared of sex and sexuality” but when they do eventually come in, Faith went on to say, “there’s something in here for everyone, all this shop does is adds a bit of salt and pepper for flavour”.
According to Faith, “this kind of thing being taboo is a good thing, it keeps it special and gives a bit of excitement when a relationship needs spicing up a bit”. Of course sex being a subject people don’t really talk about does mean that there is little in the way of advertising by word of mouth but as we are now in the age of the internet adding a bit of something different to your sex life is only a yahoo answer away.
“Due to the internet, people are a lot more knowledgeable about sex, which means people know exactly what they want when they come into the shop” says Faith. When asked if there was a certain demographic that the shop attracted and what they were buying, Faith said “people from all walks of life come in, younger people normally have less money so get whatever they think will give them the most bang for their buck but older people who normally have a bit more spare cash buy higher quality products. The difference is really in what the different groups of people buy rather than who comes in”.
When questioned about the ‘weirdest’ requests Faith had had during her time running the shop she said, “weird requests are really few and far between but they do happen but mostly over the phone, one guy kept calling and asking for our used socks and another guy asked if we sold adult nappies because he liked to wet himself but beyond that nothing too out of the ordinary. People always ask if we get weirdo’s and paedophiles but obviously no we don’t, paedophiles are outside schools.”
“We have a massive range in the shop, so when a couple comes in here wanting to try something like bondage, well with bondage how long is a piece of string? You might just be thinking handcuffs but you’ll find all sorts of things for bondage like restraints to spread-eagle someone to the bed, or shackles you couldn’t ever get out of, ropes, clips and you see things that give you ideas”.
“Bondage isn’t weird, I think each to their own, if two or more people are happy with something why does anyone else care?”.
She then went on to say, “I feel that the weirdest people are the ones who come in and behave in a very childlike way and start giggling and get silly, who say ‘we don’t need this’ but you know they want it and they know they want it but they’re so embarrassed they can’t be mature about it. But nowadays people come in and they are very clued up about what we do and know how to behave”.
“Ultimately no matter what you’re doing there’s always going to be someone else out there doing it, even if its very unusual”.
After speaking to Faith I realised that the most important thing about making Passion a success was to just make people comfortable, saying “An important distinction a lot of people fail to make is that this is a ‘sexy shop’ not a sex shop, we don’t have DVDs and back room”. She then said, “I’m completely desensitised to it, it’s just a bit of plastic to me but people’s own sexual attitudes are always going to determine how they feel when they come in but I do my best to normalise the situation to make people feel comfortable when they come in”.
“For me it’s about selling sex toys tastefully so people don’t feel awful about what they’re buying, if you make an issue out of it you’re only adding to the stigma”.
Now have a look at some of the most popular products that Passion sells and who’s buying them.