Retailers can use their connections with consumers to help good causes, says Jacqueline Gold

While retailers might be having a tough time, perhaps we should lend a thought to the charity sector and the double whammy it faces.

An increasing drain on its resources and a decline in donations means it’s important that the campaigns we endorse deliver more than just financial support - we need to meet some of their communication objectives too.

To that end, I’m on a mission - we all are at Ann Summers and I’m rather hoping you can help. I’d like you to do me a favour and at some point over the next couple of days I’d like you to touch some breasts. In fact, I’d like you to gently massage some, cup them lovingly and generally get to know them as intimately as possible.

If you don’t have any of your own, choose your partner’s.

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and our mission is to not only raise money for the Breast Cancer Campaign - which we’ll do by donating 10% of sales from three of our best-selling products - but also to encourage everyone to regularly check their breasts. Self-examination is the first step, but we think it’s more fun to do it as a couple.

I make no apologies for making light of what is a very serious subject - one that all of us have been directly or indirectly confronted with. Nor do I apologise for communicating our part in this month’s campaign with a heaving mound of innuendo.

Ann Summers is about having fun, while encouraging or facilitating intimacy. The vast majority of you who take up my challenge will find nothing untoward, whereupon we hope you celebrate the all-clear like a Mastermind quiz master: “I’ve started so I’ll finish”.

I think that’s the beauty of partnering with so many different brands, when you’re trying to get across what can be quite a dry message, to such a broad demographic. It’s to the credit of the team at the Breast Cancer Campaign that they give us the leeway to do our bit in an Ann Summers style, while retail’s other big supporters of this campaign, such as Asda, Debenhams and Matalan, will do it with the tone of voice that’s spot on for their customers.

Regular readers of this column will know that I’m a great believer in the strength of retail and that I see our industry as having the potential to be the most powerful force for good. It is our organisations that are closest to the man and woman on the street, above church, state or media. We also have a vast communications network, from our staff to our windows and websites, and employ some of the country’s finest communicators.

It bemuses me that our government doesn’t enlist our help in the same way that the more progressive charities do, to help tackle some of the broader social issues that face this country. You could say they’re missing a trick. We’d call it a big boob.

Jacqueline Gold is chief executive of Ann Summers