Sex industry booms amid doom 'n gloom

NEW YORK - Andrew Bradley is doing his bit for anti-recession stimulation - and not just of the economic kind.

"I bought lingerie for my girlfriend," Bradley, 31, proudly announced as he exited fancy intimates store The Little Flirt in Manhattan clutching a tiny, pink bag.

"And he didn't spare on the cost, I can tell you," added Bradley's shopping companion and fellow writer Terry Cirlin.

Experts say a growing number of Americans are defying consumer gloom to spice up their love lives, making the so-called pleasure industry one of the few retail sectors to end the year with a smile.

Places like Little Flirt - home to the R31500 Little Platinum Eternity Diamond Vibrator - seem immune to the terror gripping retailers.

Lingerie empire Victoria's Secret stuck its tongue out at the recession by parading a R48million jewel-encrusted bra in November and opening a big flagship store in New York this month.

At Babeland, an upscale sex shop with three New York outlets, vibrators are practically buzzing off the shelves.

"Sales are up 7 percent in the past months compared to the last three months of last year," said co-founder Claire Cavanah.

The pink and white, R1050 Gigi vibrator "did so well we ran out".

Condom kings Durex reported R183million in US sales for November, up on R174million last year, a performance that must make other retailers sick with envy.

The economic logic behind this bedroom boom is simple.

"At a time of a recession people tend to stay in. And when you're at home, around the home fire, one thing leads to the other," Jennifer Grizzle, a Durex spokesman says.

"The condom business is recession proof: you can't stop mother nature," she adds.

But there is another, more romantic cause for recession sex.

"It's a scary time, and people want to connect," Babeland's Cavanah says. - Sapa-AFP