‘It’ll give people a better idea of what’s inside’: Why Nottingham’s oldest sex shop is planning a makeover

Nottingham’s oldest sex shop is hoping to attract more customers and leave behind the industry’s sometimes-seedy reputation with a new look. The Private Shop, on Upper Parliament Street, is planning to fit a purple shop front designed to appeal more to couples and give off a less mysterious air. Chris Breese and Kate Chaplin ventured through the door.

This article contains images some people may find offensive.


“It’s going to be pink and purple and silhouettes on the windows, hopefully it will give people a better idea of what we do inside, and encourage them to come in.”

Barry Maltby says it’s time his shop, which has been open for around three decades, ditched the old grey blinds and blue colouring.

“We’ve been here, probably over 30 years now. We seem to be doing something right as far as the public is concerned. They seem to keep coming back, so that’s the main thing.”

But the shop front has remained largely unchanged for years, he added, and the new design is meant to be more modern and welcoming, as well as being more appealing to women, rather than men. The designs have been sent to Nottingham City Council, which issues sex shops with licences containing tight controls.

The new frontage will still screen off the full interior of the shop in accordance with its licence – because some of its products may cause offence, besides being unsuitable for children’s eyes. Alongside a vast array of male and female underwear and toys, it also stocks costumes, and hundreds of adult DVDs.

The makeover is another chapter in the shop’s colourful history in Nottingham. While other shops nearby have closed down, Private Shop has kept going, despite the tidal wave of internet retail and objections to its presence.

In 2010 even Nottingham City Council Leader Jon Collins formally objected to a licence renewal – saying it was an “obstacle to potential regeneration” because developers or businesses could be put off by it – a view unsurprisingly rejected by the shop’s staff.

Private-Shop-Nottingham
Supervisor Barry Maltby in the DVD section of The Private Shop. Some naughty things have been covered with the help of the Notts TV blue duck.

When asked how the shop has so far survived where others have perished, Barry adds: “It’s hard – it’s a lot easier to punch something in that you want [online] and get it straight to your door. It’s the face-to-face thing I think. You get a bond with your customers that you would not get online.

“You get a lot of regulars and you sort of know their needs. You know what they are looking for and it just makes it easier than it would be online.”

Barry has worked in the shop for 16 years and now supervises a chain of 10 across the East Midlands.

“The customer base has changed in terms of the generations – and Fifty Shades of Grey changed things,” he added.

“People want more bondage – probably 16 years ago that was a bit more taboo. It’s followed on [from the first book] and that’s a good thing really.

“[Over the years] you do develop a particular sense of humour as well. You do get some funny film names. We have Spiderman and even Batman parodies.”

Private-Shop-Nottingham
Private Shop’s current frontage, on Upper Parliament Street.

Besides looking for a new image, the shop is also running a rare recruitment drive for a part-time shop assistant.

“We used to struggle to recruit years ago, but now the industry has become a bit more mainstream. It’s getting a lot easier for people to come in.

“I think it’s personality – the people who work here give a good service and so hopefully people come back. That’s the knack, I think.

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“We do enjoy our jobs – it’s relaxed and we don’t get any pressure really. You just come in, do your job, talk to a lot of nice people and away you go, that just sets your day off, I think.

“It’s part-time and it’s for a candidate that doesn’t have to be experienced in the job – training will be given.”

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