Sunset Store Thriving, But National Roll-Out Delayed

The spinning globe above the entrance of Larry Flynt's Hustler Hollywood store brashly proclaims that his X-rated approach to retailing is not for mainstream America but instead "for the rest of the world."

Yet it seems the rest of the world will have to wait a while before Flynt gets around to exporting his experiment in mainstreaming porn to the masses.

Two years after Flynt opened his gleaming 9,000-square-foot retail store on the west end of Sunset Strip, officials at Larry Flynt Publications say business is booming. Annual profits reportedly are surpassing $1 million. Still, Hustler's ambitious plan to open up to 40 more stores nationwide is unfolding far slower than initially anticipated.

Except for one other store operating in the Cincinnati area and one planned for Dayton, Ohio, Hustler Hollywood is it for Flynt. Retail remains a minor component of the Hustler empire, which includes about 20 magazines, a dozen Web sites, mail-order sales, video production and cable and satellite television operations.

Retail operations accounted for less than 5 percent of LFP's 1999 sales of $142 million. That percentage will be about the same this year, with company officials projecting revenues to top $150 million.

Not too worry, said LFP President Jim Kohls, who nonetheless pointed to retail as well as Hustler's video and Internet divisions as the company's best bet for grabbing a bigger slice of the $10 billion-a-year adult entertainment market.

Kohls said LFP is planning to open one or two more Hustler stores in 2001.

"We are a little bit behind," he conceded. "Right now we're exploring locations in New Orleans, Miami and other cities. If we find a good location that makes sense, we'll open a store. We are not going to open a store just for the sake of opening one."

So far, Hustler's Sunset Boulevard location, with its picture windows, wide aisles, espresso and mix of male and female shoppers, remains an anomaly in the often seedy world of adult book and novelty stores.

Not just a clean, well-lit place to shop for smut, Hustler Hollywood represents a bold experiment in adult-themed retail. With its high-profile location on the Strip, wide array of products and emphasis on safe sex and fun, Hustler Hollywood aims to obscure the darker side of pornography by creating a hip, stigma-free market for adult products.

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