SSL International on Tuesday reported strong sales of its new sex toy range, which it has quietly rolled out across 230 Superdrug stores nationwide in the past few months.

The success of the Durex Play range of vibrators underlines the increasingly liberal attitude of British shoppers towards sexuality, as sex toys have moved from dingy backstreets to high streets.

In the past year, Boots, Asda, J Sainsbury and Tesco have all started to stock vibrating penis rings. Sales of sex toys have grown rapdily during the past five years, helped by the popularity of television programmes such as Sex and the City and the rapid expansion of Ann Summers’ passion and fashion stores.

Garry Watts, chief executive of SSL, said he was now expecting the Play range, which also includes lubricants, to achieve annual sales of £10m. “This is about people enjoying sex and having better sex.”

With his move into the mainstream, Mr Watts is looking to grab a share of the sex aids market – worth an estimated £400m-£500m worldwide.

“You can buy vibrators all over the world but it seemed to us that they were by and large low quality, gimmicky type products,” he said.

Catherine Gort, group marketing director for Durex, said she was “very confident” that the products would sell. “More vibrators are sold every year in Britain than washing machines and tumble dryers combined.”

News of the Superdrug roll-out comes nearly a year after Boots decided not to stock the full range after a report in the Financial Times sparked a raft of negative publicity. Reflecting on his experience with Boots, Mr Watts said: “There is clearly a nervousness about consumer reaction to having vibrators on the shelves. We know we need to move carefully.”

Boots does now stock some Play range items but does not sell vibrators for women. “Superdrug are now stocking the range we were looking at. But…we decided last year it wasn’t for us, and that hasn’t changed,” it said.

Superdrug has so far received no complaints from customers. “Some people feel more comfortable buying these products somewhere like Superdrug than going somewhere seedy,” it said.

SSL has managed so far to avoid negative reaction by using discreet packaging.

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