Consumers Embracing BDSM, Fetish Products Like Never Before
By all accounts, consumer interest in BDSM has grown in recent years, a trend that some observers of the market attribute to the popularity of the “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy. Whatever its inspiration, increased competition within the BDSM/fetish pleasure-product sector has spawned the development of a more diverse selection and more sophisticated and high-quality designs. To get a sense of what’s driving the popularity of some of the sector’s best-selling items, XBIZ polled representatives from Williams Trading Co., XR Brands and CNV.com for a distributor’s-eye view of this dynamic and growing market.
Dave Levine, CEO of CNV.com, said that one of the more intriguing aspects of BDSM products as a category is an ‘egalitarian’ purchase pattern, so to speak.
“An interesting fact regarding the BDSM category is that the products are almost equally popular across their sub-categories,” Levine said. “In other categories, such as vibrators, we see a bulk of the orders come from a few most popular sub-categories, like Rabbits and Bullets, but in BDSM we have 13 sub-categories without any that dominate the sales. In other words, BDSM is a category with a wide variety of products and people buy them all.”
One of CNV’s consistently top-selling BDSM items is the Under the Bed Restraint System, which receives high marks in consumer reviews for its ease of use, comfort, flexibility and portability.
“Restraints are popular, and this item kind of does it all by offering wrist and ankle restraints as well as an easy way to attach it to the bed,” Levine noted, adding that the overwhelmingly positive feedback from consumers helps drive sales, as well. “We have 26 reviews on it (on SexToy.com), of which 24 are five stars, and the other two are four stars.”
Randy Alvstad, general manager of XR Brands, said that one of his company’s current hot items is an improvement on an old favorite, incorporating new materials and combining the stimulation of clamps and gags into a single, unified device.
“We recently developed a unique series of 100 percent silicone ball and bit gags with nipple clamps attached, which intensify the traditional gag experience with nipple pinching and tugging,” Alvstad said.
“Part of our top-selling Master Series advanced fetish brand, these silicone gags are fitted with bullnose clamps connected by steel chains to inflict a pleasant pinch and tug with every movement of the user’s head. Rather than traditional rubber, we used premium silicone, which is tasteless and odorless and gives consumers a higher-quality choice when shopping for these kinds of fetish accessories.”
XR’s two latest releases are the “Hinder,” a breathable ball gag that lets users restrict the speech of their partner without obstructing their breath, and the “Equine,” an appropriately-named bit gag that sits horizontally in the user’s mouth with two O rings on each end, which are in turn connected to each nipple clamp securely with a taut chain.
Alvstad said that XR has received a tremendously positive response from retailers, adding that the company has two more O-ring gags in production that “keep the user’s mouth wide open, granting his or her master full access for unlimited possibilities.”
Scott Dantis, director of sales and marketing, Williams Trading Co., told XBIZ that his company sees “a distinct difference in the types of products that are purchased from and entry level or soft bondage customer to a more hard core enthusiast.”
“Someone who is just entering into the BDSM fetish product segment will typically purchase bed restraint systems or soft bondage products that are targeted at couples with restraints, floggers, and blindfolds,” Dantis said. “On the high end side, the enthusiast in the BDSM market, we see consumers who know what they want to purchase and will own multiple configurations of toys under one brand as they expand their assortment of toys to experience.
“Tantus holds one of the best repeat customer purchase-rates with very loyal BDSM consumers. It’s not uncommon for the enthusiast group to have several configurations of floggers or paddles that all provide a different sensation. What’s hot now is better-made products with premium features.”
In addition to brand loyalty and typically high volumes of purchasing, Dantis noted that at the high end of the spectrum, “we see no avoidance of purchase due to a higher price point.”
“Unique brands like Rapture, Kink Labs and Spartacus are doing very well in this segment,” Dantis said. “Again, consumers recognize the quality of high end leather, and stainless steel BDSM products and are willing to invest in quality to expand the range of experiences.”
As with any market, even one often seen as “specialized” to begin with, there are lucrative niches within the BDSM product market, sometimes delineated by the specific body part or erogenous zone they are designed to stimulate. Both Levine and Alvstad cited nipple clamps and enlargers as current top-sellers from their catalogs.
“Nipple enlargement is an easy and relatively painless (unless the user wants it otherwise) way to enhance sensitivity and arousal in this key – and often overlooked – erogenous zone, and these kinds of nipple suckers and systems are easy-to-use options for adding spice and exploring sensation play,” Alvstad said.
“We offer a variety of versions, from classic rubber pinch styles to fullon suction systems. For connoisseurs, we created the Master Series Sukshen 12-piece Cupping Set, which includes a variety of cylinders designed to enlarge and engorge a variety of erogenous zones, including the nipples, using a design inspired by traditional Chinese medicine. Ideal for relieving sore muscles, exploring erotic massage, or straight-up BDSM play, this cupping system uses a hand-held pump to create suction as tight and intense as the user likes.”
Looking forward, Williams Trading has begun dipping its toes in the “BDSM-To-Go” market with the Pocket Dragon, a complete suite of eleven toys and restraint set, all housed in a case no larger than a shaving kit.
“This kit was the creation of long-term BDSM enthusiasts who saw the need to offer a product that would allow followers to have BDSM sessions during vacation, or in a hotel without having to carry along an oversized suitcase of toys,” Dantis said.
Will the upswing in BDSM’s popularity continue? Does it represent more than a passing fancy on the part of consumers? Ms. Ming, one of the co-creators of the Pocket Dungeon, believes that it is, telling XBIZ that in her mind, BDSM’s increasing popularity is not a mere trend, but “the next evolution in sexuality.”
“I think that in BDSM we get real,” Ms. Ming said. “I think we are demanding more from our sex than just feel-good feelings and tender kisses. We want it to hurt, we want it to push us – we want to feel like we earned it. BDSM play is about catharsis; the people drawn to BDSM are edge-walkers, they want raw and they want primal, and in a society that is seeking to always corporatize and homogenize our body image and our interactions with each other, BDSM is about real bodies, playing hard, messy sex and primal lust.”