FEBRUARY is known as the month of love in some quarters, but according to those in the business desire does not end on March 1.

Chantal Edouard-Betsy, owner of The Bedroom chain of stores, said sales of erotica spike on Valentine's Day and anniversaries but about 50% of her business is from repeat shoppers, many of whom come in once a month.

Edouard-Betsy and Sharon Gordon, who owns Lola Montez, said typical clients are women over 30 and many are mothers and wives.

People under 30 tend to buy novelty items. Women over 30 are generally "more at ease with their sexuality" and buy accordingly, Edouard-Betsy said. But demand for erotica does not have an age limit. It is not unheard of for customers in their 70s to visit the stores or buy products online.

SA's erotica industry is growing but lags Europe and the US where it is a multi-billion dollar business. Edouard-Betsy and Gordon said the media, particularly women's magazines and books like Fifty Shades of Grey, make women more aware and accepting of their sexuality and more interested in what items are on offer.

Edouard-Betsy said the Fifty Shades trilogy has stimulated interest in eroticism and erotic literature. What was once available via e-books or online book stores is now on the front desk in Exclusive Books. While Fifty Shades has opened people's eyes to possibilities, education through magazines, and TV has also played a part.

Gordon said although there is still a significant stigma attached to sex and erotica she has seen continuous growth and acceptance over the years.

But, like most disposable income-reliant businesses, the erotica business is affected by the economy.

* This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times