Now B&Q has issued guidance to all staff in anticipation of a run on cable ties, rope and duct tape in the wake of the release of erotic film Fifty Shades of Grey.
The hardware store has sent a memo to its 20,887 staff at 359 stores UK-wide, instructing them to familiarise themselves with the novel in preparation for “sensitive” customer queries about the products.
It has also told managers they need to be aware of the “stock implications” of the expected high level of demand after the film hits cinema screens around the country, and said it would distribute copies to workers unfamiliar with the storyline.
The big-screen version of the bestselling novel, which tells the story of the relationship between university graduate Anastasia Steele and businessman Christian Grey, is due to be released this weekend.
In the film Anastasia, played by Dakota Johnson, works part-time at a hardware store similar to B&Q, where Christian, portrayed in the film by Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan – best known for BBC2 drama The Fall – goes to purchase rope, cable ties and tape. He introduces Anastasia to the world of bondage, sadomasochism and dominant sexual roleplay.
B&Q said it expected customers to be inspired by the hardware store scene in the film – and others.
The leaked memo said: “Rather than bought for home improvement purposes, these products are intended to fulfil Mr Grey’s unconventional sexual pursuits.
“We stock many of the products featured in this notable scene and then used later in the film. When the book was released in 2012, DIY and hardware stores in the UK and US reported increased demand of certain products and queries from customers as they tried to recreate their own Fifty Shades experiences. We need to be prepared for the same effect when the film is released this month.”
The memo, entitled “Staff Briefing – Preparation for Fifty Shades of Grey Customer Queries”, also said that copies of the book would be distributed to stores for staff to borrow “on a one-week basis”.
It added that customers may make inquiries which are “unusual and sensitive in nature”, but staff were urged to handle the discussions with “discretion” and “reminded” of B&Q’s commitment to assist customers in a “polite, helpful and respectful” manner. The memo says: “All staff are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the content of Fifty Shades of Grey by reading the novel or watching the film upon its release.”
The memo said the busiest sales periods for these products are expected to run from this Sunday to Sunday 1 March, “with a focus on weekend trading”.
A B&Q spokesman said: “We remain committed to serving our customers in all their DIY needs and we strive to prepare our staff for any inquiry.
“Customer satisfaction is always our number-one priority.”
Fifty Shades of Grey, by British author EL James, became a number-one bestseller in many countries worldwide when it was written in 2011 after starting life online as fan fiction linked to the popular vampire series Twilight.
The fastest-selling paperback of all time in the UK, the Fifty Shades series, which includes two other books, has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages. However, the novel, which is popular mainly among women, has been criticised over fears that it portrays an abusive relationship.