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Forget jumping out windows and hiding cash under mattresses - the credit crunch is driving Kiwis into sex, drugs and even rock 'n' roll.

Wendy Lee, director and owner of designer sex gear retail chain Dvice, says the company's New Zealand sales could be up about 20 per cent this financial year, and the same sort of figures are coming out of Australia.

"They say people have more sex during recessions and we'd definitely say that was true of what we are seeing," she says.

Lee adds customers are moving towards big-ticket items in the $180-$240 range - those that are medical-grade, made in Sweden and likely to last longer.

Dvice appeared at the Sydney Sexpo in July and Auckland's Erotica in August, which Lee says was the most successful ever.

Others in the industry echoed Lee's view that sex does not die with the economy.

Heath Blackler, national manager for "adult entertainment" retailer Video Expo, says other retailers are struggling but "people are still buying porn".

The company ran an aggressive advertising campaign this time last year and the stores have maintained high sales since then, Blackler says.

Online condom retailer Discreet Condoms New Zealand confirmed September sales were up 42 per cent on the previous month - coincidentally the time Wall St tumbled. But managing director Duncan Costley says the onset of summer may also have prompted the rise.

Brian Le Gros, owner of the Whitehouse strip club in Auckland, says from what he has seen the adult entertainment industry has not yet been hit by the downturn.

While many of Auckland's bars are shutting their doors earlier on Friday and Saturday nights, the Whitehouse remains busy, and has been attracting patrons from the neighbouring bars because it stays open until 6am.

Le Gros says his customers are generally businessmen who are only too aware of the tough economic climate but are still willing to spend on entertainment.

"Maybe they are not going to buy a house but I think they are still looking to go out and have a good time," Le Gros says.

Even the supermarkets note high sales in feel-good items.

Mark Baker, general manager of retail sales and performance at Foodstuffs, says that "over the past three months we have observed a noticeable increase in both the number of units and dollar value of tobacco and alcohol when compared to sales 12 months ago".

Foodstuffs has also observed that people are starting to buy higher-priced units. Baker says that "this may be because they are choosing to entertain at home rather than go out".

John Harris of internet dating website says the site has seen an increase in the frequency of members coming back to the website over the past three months.

And the rock 'n' roll? Yes, that's happening too.

Morag Clark, of the Auckland Rock 'n' Roll Club, says that while it has struggled to attract members over the past few years, the club has noticed increased interest over the past couple of months.

Gaye Greenwood, manager of learning and teaching and a senior lecturer at AUT University, says this sort of hedonistic behaviour is "symptomatic" when people feel they have less control over their lives.

People often feel disempowerment and low self-esteem during times of personal financial hard-ship, especially when they belong to a society that values and measures success by financial wealth, she says.

"Alcohol, drugs and sex may provide immediate soothing, an escape to avoid thinking about the problems which they perceive to be out of their immediate control or influence," Greenwood says.

Paul Pickering, senior lecturer in sales, management and marketing at AUT University, says when people tighten the belt and scrap big-budget investments, it is a common phenomenon for them to reward themselves in other ways.

"It's compensating," he says. "When there's less money in the house and things get tight, people reward themselves with lower-priced, but nevertheless indulgent, items."

Marketers can take advantage of the trend, as long as they are aware people's needs change over time - they need to make sure they put products out there to satisfy those changing needs, Pickering says.

Professor Thomas Lange, chairman of business economics at AUT University, describes this "compensation theory" as the way in which people achieve balance in the relationship between work and non-work related activities. Individuals invest time and money to ensure that what is provided in one area makes up for that missing in the other.

"Deprivation, such as that experienced during a downturn are, compensated for in non-work activities, such as 'investing' in alcohol, luxury goods or sex life," says Lange.