From Microsoft to setting up an adult shop and website

Richie Cullen’s Playblue business fuses technology with meeting adult tastes

Even while Richie Cullen was working in Microsoft he always knew he would open his own business.

"I was in Australia in the early 1990s and I was looking at the types of businesses that were doing really well over there and at the time I thought, when I get home, I'll either open a healthy-option chicken restaurant, a juice bar or an adult shop

“I was living in Carlow and I would go into Kilkenny a lot so I knew it was a busy city that attracts lots of hen and stag parties. So, I took the option of redundancy from Microsoft and I decided to open an adult shop in Kilkenny.

“I was in that shop for over 11 years, but I never made a profit from the hen and stag weekends!”

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That first adult shop was in Kilkenny’s Parliament Street in the basement of a Georgian building.

“Everything came all at once for me. Some of my family members became ill, the recession hit and, after 11 years, I was told by Kilkenny County Council that I had to move premises.

“Where there had been very good profit margin in the stock I was selling, 70 per cent of the business disappeared overnight when the recession hit, not only because of the recession, but also because the adult industry was changing so much,” Cullen explains.

So Cullen moved to a bigger shop off Ormond Street in Kilkenny.

“My rent increased by 100 per cent and my rates increased by 450 per cent, in the middle of a recession. The adult industry was completely changing and there wasn’t the same profit in some of the products I had been selling so I had to rethink the whole business. This was in 2008 and I was absolutely fighting for my life. I was surviving hand to mouth like that for about three years.”

"I knew I had to change something. My friend Robert Doyle had lost his job in the IT industry and I approached him and asked him if he'd be interested in going into business together. He has the IT experience and I have the retail experience, the relationship with the suppliers etc. So we decided to give it a go and we renamed the business Playblue.ie.

Retail vs online

“We launched the website on November 15th, 2011, and we took our first order on the same day for €36 from someone in Limerick,” Cullen says. Playblue.ie is now Ireland’s biggest website for adult toys, he says.

“We still have the shop in Kilkenny but 85-90 per cent of our business is online now. The IT system we have developed means we can receive an order and get it to the customer the next day. We only deal with the best courier service and we only deliver to the person who ordered the product. We use very discreet packaging and everything is packaged twice. At the moment, we have no outstanding orders because the system we have developed is so efficient.”

While the majority of Playblue.ie’s business comes from Ireland, it also receives orders from other countries. In fact, according to Cullen, there are only two countries globally that have not accessed the website.

"Last year, we looked at opening a second shop in Dublin and we were about to open in a premises in Drumcondra but there was an objection because the shop was near a primary school. We ended up not taking the premises but we couldn't have paid for the publicity we got. I was on the Six One news on RTÉ, the lunch time news. We were even mentioned in the Dáil."

“We are great people to do business with, we have no debts, we pay our costs and we are absolutely committed to providing our customers with the best service at the best prices.

"When I opened first I didn't know anything about the adult industry – I just wanted to open my own business. In some people's eyes I was one step up from a drug dealer when I opened an adult shop first, but when 50 Shades of Grey came out, all of a sudden I was an entrepreneur.

"That really brought the adult industry into the mainstream. But no one else is doing what we do. We put a margin on a product and we don't look for more than that. We offer the best prices and best service to our customers and that's the reputation we have developed." playblue.ie