Ann Summer axes Irish direct sales business due to Brexit

Covid impact drives losses at Irish retail unit

Ann Summers discontinued its direct selling business in Ireland last year because “higher operating costs” associated with Brexit made it “uneconomical”, according to recently filed company documents.

The 2020 accounts for Ann Summers (Ireland) Ltd, filed later than usual due to the impact of the pandemic, reveal that the group took the decision to axe the business from September 2022. The group, which sells a range of lingerie, adult toys and apparel, operated a multichannel sales model previously comprising its “party plan” ambassador network in addition to its online and retail component.

In a note attached to the accounts, Jacqueline Gold, the former chief executive of Ann Summers who died earlier this after a long illness, said that Ann Summers (Ireland) hired an additional 60 Irish ambassadors at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic in response to the first national lockdown.

She said the move, which took the total number of ambassadors here to 67, increased the business’s direct selling sales by 441 per cent during the first lockdown and had “a hugely positive impact on the company’s profitability”.


However, Ms Gold said that the business subsequently faced “a number of challenges arising from the UK leaving the European Union”. “Initially, Brexit brought complexity and cost into the process for shipping orders to Ireland, particularly with respect to the customs requirements on importation of goods into Ireland,” she said. From September 2022, “the wider group has sadly been forced to cease to operate a direct selling business in Ireland as the higher operating costs made it uneconomical”.

Ann Summers (Ireland) was also subsumed into its Irish parent, Ann Summers Ireland (Retail) Ltd, which continues to operate the company’s brick-and-mortar stores in Dublin and Cork.

Losses at the group’s Irish retail entity topped €2.4 million in the 12 months to the end of June 2020, according to separate filings, as the business struggled with the impact of lockdown.

The directors – Ms Gold and her sister and successor Vanessa Gold – noted in the accounts, which were signed off upon in January, that the company had “entered into extensive discussions with [its] landlords to ensure that [its] property costs reflect today’s much-changed market conditions”.

“With our store costs now largely rebased to reflect today’s retail environment, we believe our iconic stores will thrive and we are actively looking at key new sites for the future,” they said.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times