Jacqueline Gold, Executive Who Tapped Into the Female Libido, Dies at 62

Jacqueline Gold, who after joining her family’s corporation as a teenager recognized that its male-oriented erotic offerings were missing an important part of the market and transformed Britain’s Ann Summers brand into a flourishing retail operation offering women lingerie, sex toys and more, died on March 16 in the county of Surrey, in southeast England. She was 62.

A company spokeswoman said the cause was breast cancer.

At her death Ms. Gold held the title of executive chair of Ann Summers and Knickerbox, a lingerie company, and was well known as an advocate and role model for female entrepreneurs in Britain.

More than 50 years earlier, in 1972, her father, David Gold, and his brother, Ralph, had bought two sex shops that had been founded a year or two earlier by the businessman Michael Caborn-Waterfield and been billed as “sex supermarkets.” (He named the shops for his secretary and occasional lover, Annice Summers.) By the time Ms. Gold went to work for her father at 19 as an office assistant, the company was “dealing largely in top-shelf magazines for the ‘raincoat brigade,’” as The Mail Online put it in 2018.

“Although the head office was just like any other business,” Ms. Gold told The Birmingham Post of England in 1995, “frankly, it was essentially run by men. The customers were men, and that annoyed me in a way. I felt angry there was all this for men and nothing for women.”

She set about changing that, beginning by updating the thinking of the board of directors.

“Their attitude was, ‘Women aren’t interested in sex,’” Ms. Gold said. She proved them wrong, marketing sexy lingerie, swimwear, sex toys and novelty items to women, who, she discovered, were eager for them. According to news accounts of the period, by 1995 Ann Summers was selling 300,000 vibrators a year; in later years, she said in interviews, the figure climbed into the millions.

As she put it in the 1995 interview, “That’s saying a lot for what women want.”

Among her biggest initiatives, introduced in 1982, was the Ann Summers party, similar to a Tupperware party, where a host sells kitchen products in her home, except that the products being sold at an Ann Summers party were sex-related. She got the idea, she said, when she was invited to a Pippa Dee party, a British enterprise where clothing was sold by the party hosts. When the other guests learned that she worked at Ann Summers, the talk took a raunchy, and festive, turn; Ms. Gold realized that it was the perfect format for selling sexy products.

Soon there were hundreds of Ann Summers parties a week, then thousands. The company also built up its network of stores; there are now scores of them in Britain and beyond. In 1987 Ms. Gold was made chief executive.

Many of the countless newspaper articles about her in Britain over the decades made reference to the fact that she was strikingly glamorous herself, which fit nicely with the image the company was trying to project.

“Immaculately dressed in silk floral skirt, cotton twin set and strappy sandals that look as uncomfortable as the thigh-high patent leather boots the Ann Summers chain sells,” The Daily Telegraph wrote in 2002 in a typical description, “she is groomed to within an inch of her life.”

Ms. Gold played down the glamour.

“I suppose I see myself as a feminine person,” she said in the 1995 interview with The Post. “If it’s helped, it’s a coincidence. At the end of the day, it’s business acumen that makes success.”

Jacqueline Gold was born on July 16, 1960, in Beckenham, Greater London, to Mr. Gold and Beryl Hunt. She grew up in Biggin Hill, county of Kent.

At 19 she had secured an internship at her father’s company.

“Forty-five pounds a week,” she said in a biographical company video. “I was earning less than the tea lady.”

By the early 1980s she was on the full-time payroll. In recent years she had become executive chair, and her sister, Vanessa Gold, became chief executive.

Ms. Gold, who lived in Oxted, south of London, married Dan Cunningham in 2010. In addition to him and her sister, her survivors include a daughter, Scarlett Cunningham.

Ms. Gold fought assorted battles over the years. When she was planning to open a shop in Dublin in 1999, there was considerable opposition; she said someone sent her a bullet in the mail. She opened the shop anyway. In 2002, government job centers were told to stop listing vacancies at Ann Summers stores; she brought a court challenge and won.

Ms. Gold, who was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2016 “for services to entrepreneurship, women in business and social enterprise,” was sometimes criticized for joining her father’s company even though, at the time, its products included pornographic magazines.

“I don’t have an issue with top-shelf magazines,” she told The Sunday Express in 2002. “There’s a demand for them, and millions are sold each year. The models in them are not exploited and have made their own decisions. I think society is more grown-up than people tend to assume.”

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