Smoking Accessories: A New Source of Revenue for Adult Businesses
The adult entertainment industry has a long history of finding new opportunities and quickly turning them into additional revenue streams. Adult stores were profiting from the home video market back when people were still debating the merits of VHS cassettes versus beta cassettes. And when consumers were getting their first dial-up Internet connections, adult e-commerce websites were quick to sell them everything from vibrators, strap-on dildos and leather corsets to erotic videos. Now, in 2015, a growing trend is adult businesses branching out into the lucrative market for smoking accessories. The liberalization of marijuana laws in parts of the U.S. and in countries ranging from Portugal to Uruguay offers new opportunities for adult businesses to sell bongs and pipes (which traditionally, have been sold primarily in head shops), and the demand for vapes and e-cigarettes has grown to the point that adult entertainment giant Hustler has expanded into that area.
Jason Roth, CEO of the Pompano, Fla.-based ISI Wholesale Inc. and its subsidiary Hustler Vapes, asserted that the Hustler brand adds a lot of credibility to the vapes market — and Hustler’s involvement, he said, encourages adult stores to start selling vapes along with the sex toys and/or adult videos they are known for. “It’s a really great crossover,” Roth told XBIZ. “A lot of the people in the vape world haven’t been in business a long time, but you have a lot of adult stores that have been in businesses for 30 or 40 years. The people in those adult stores are not amateurs at this point; they make good, calculated decisions. They know how to make money long-term, and I think that getting attention from the adult stores really validates what people in the vape world are doing.”
Asked how much of a learning curve there is if adult stores decide to start selling products from Hustler Vapes, Roth replied, “We provide training, and I would say that the learning curve is not very steep at this point. We put together a package that is very easy for the adult stores to understand.”
Clint Strunk, sales manager for the Phoenix-based Beamonstar Products, described vapes and adult stores as a perfect fit. “Smoking products, especially vape-related items, are trending and popular,” Strunk told XBIZ. “Why let your adult customer go down the road with their money to buy these items when you already have them in your store with wallet in hand?...... Adult retailers are really starting to recognize that the customers they are selling to are into vaping, but they also realize that there is a huge market of new customers out there that might never walk into their door without a more diverse lineup of products.”
Strunk added that while there is a learning curve if retailers who have traditionally sold sex toys and/or adult videos start selling vapes for the first time, it is by no means insurmountable. “There is always a learning curve when you bring a new type of product into the store, especially if it is out of the realm of what they usually sell,” Strunk observed. “It is up to us as distributors to educate them as much as we can and to be there for any questions that may come up later.”
Brian Pellham, CEO of the Seattle-based Kheper Games (which offers both erotic games and marijuana-themed games), said that in the past, many adult stores shied away from selling any types of smoking accessories. But with the liberalization of marijuana laws in some places, that is gradually changing.
“We’re seeing a lot more adult stores willing to sell pot-themed items,” Pellham told XBIZ. “Before, it was more of a taboo subject that many businesses were afraid to promote. The concern generates from issues there have been in the past with police or government agencies busting businesses for ‘encouraging pot use.’ The instances were rare, but enough to cause concern.”
Ashley Manta, founder of Sex Ed with Ashley Manta and co-host of the erotic podcast Carnalcopia, has been an open proponent of marijuana use as a sexual enhancement —and she noted that she has been seeing more people promoting marijuana-oriented or marijuana-themed products at adult industry conventions. Manta told XBIZ: “Marijuana is finally starting to lose the stigma that it has had for so long. There are now marijuana products on the market designed intentionally to be used sexually. For instance, Foria — the THC-infused oil — came onto the scene designed for post-menopausal women who are experiencing pain or dryness. Now, people of all ages are using it to enhance pleasure. If ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was the impetus for mainstream BDSM discussions, Foria is the catalyst for marijuana-related pleasure products.”
Manta added: “Marijuana enthusiasts represent a highly diverse cross-section of society. There are folks of all genders and all ages from every imaginable socioeconomic background. This makes it vital to have products at multiple price points and to diversify marketing campaigns so that they are not focused exclusively on one demographic.”
Kevin, vice president of AVNS, Inc., cited AVNS as a good example of the growing interaction between the adult industry and the market for smoking accessories. Kevin told XBIZ, “Lanny Cohen, the owner of AVNS, Inc., has recently opened two smoke shops: Puffs 1 in Santa Ana, Calif. and Puffs 2 in Anaheim, Calif. Both stores have a large selection of smoke products with an adult section featuring novelties, DVDs and enhancement pills.”
Similarly, on AVNS’ AVNSSmoke.com site, one finds water pipes, bubblers and vapes alongside sexual lubricants. “In the states where it has become legal, it’s basically a no-brainer for an adult store to devote a little display cabinet to hand pipes, water pipes and bubblers,” Kevin noted. “With our distribution company, AVNS Inc., we’ve been handling the smoking-related products for a few months. We are starting to see an increase in the adult stores handling the product. They start small with a display cabinet containing hand pipes, water pipes and bubblers. With the decline of DVD sales, smoking products are a good revenue source to help pick up the slack.”