Australia’s Sexpo gets new moves for UK market Australasia

Wet T-shirt contests could make way for champagne bars as Australia’s largest sexual health and lifestyle exhibition becomes less “down and dirty” for its UK debut, organisers report.

Organiser and trade publisher Carnal Creative said it would sidestep relying on the lads market when it launched Sexpo UK under licence at Olympia London, on 13-15 November 2015.

Lee Schofield, managing director of the Blackpool-based agency, told EW the company was working on a “more inclusive” show programmed to attract women, couples and the LGBT community.

“Sexpo is a very successful brand in Australia where it has multiple shows,” Schofield said.

“Their brand is very much more focused, I would say, on the boys.

“We’re thinking the UK doesn’t want it quite as down and dirty, they’d like it a little more risqué,” Schofield said of the 20-year-old consumer exhibition, which also has a South Africa edition.

A side-by-side comparison of the Australian and UK exhibitions’ websites demonstrates Carnal Creative’s more measured approach.

The organiser – which publishes Erotic Trade Only magazine – had toyed with the idea of geocloning Sexpo Australia for years, to complement its trade-only show, ETO, at NEC Birmingham, Schofield said.

“During the recession wasn’t the right time to launch,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of consumer shows come and go.

But a stronger economy combined with the ‘Fifty Shades effect’, which boosted sales for the $15bn global sex toy market, prompted a rethink.

“We’re hoping that makes it less taboo and makes it more ‘Oo let’s give that a go’,” Schofield said of the bestselling series.

Schofield was optimistic the three-day show would attract more than 18,000 visitors, adding that about 70 per cent of its 5,500sqm space had been sold.

He said previous consumer shows, including the now defunct Erotica, were guilty of focusing on only one element of the market; heterosexual men.

“I’m not saying there won’t be boobs,” Schofield said. “We’re trying to be all inclusive.”

The UK edition will feature more frequent live entertainment, including all-male review The Dream Boys as well as a champagne bar, free STI screenings, festish-ware and lingerie catwalk shows.

Sexpo Australia’s website stated the show started “as a forum for women to feel comfortable about buying adult products”, before expanding to an adult lifestyle exhibition, where women accounted for about 50 per cent of its audience.

However, Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau reported a Brisbane Sexpo billboard, depicting a lingerie-clad woman on her knees, was among the top ten most complained about advertisements in 2010. The Ad Standards Board found the advertisement had not breached the country’s advertising code of ethics.

EW has contacted Sexpo Australia for comment.