trends

Store-Bought Sex

Borgus Weems
The puns are inevitable when discussing the ins and outs of sexual-enhancement products, the double entendres are just bursting out all over the place. Especially when discussing the retail successes of such in-demand erotic items as longevity pills (“the competition is stiff!”), ejaculation volumizers (“sales are exploding”) and stay-hard pills (“the market’s bigger than ever!”).

But, after speaking with retail experts of the subject of sexual-enhancement products, it does, indeed seem to be true. Marketing directors, product buyers, purchasing directors and marketing analysts on the subject agree that such “sexy extras” as erection pills, topical gels (typically for women), secretion sweeteners, vaginal creams (obviously for the fairer sex, as well) and sexual-performance-augmenting drinks are at an absolute high.

YOUR MORE POPULAR ITEMS — EMPHASIS ON THE POP

In terms of popularity, retail experts note that men do seem to definitely lean more towards pills than women, who tend to prefer buying sexual-enhancement products that are more topical-based, such as lotions and gels.

“Pills I’ve definitely noticed aren’t that popular among women,” said Ken Lassiter, a key buyer at one of the biggest erotic-product distributors, Adam & Eve. “It’s really a societal thing, I believe. I mean, men are expected to get it up, keep it hard and perform for long periods of time. Look at the commercials for such mainstream erection pills as Cialis and Viagra. They dominate the media. So it’s expected that the man has to perform.

“Women, on the other hand, are a little anxious about taking a pill of this type. They’d rather have something that’ll enhance their sexual encounters. With pills you have to wait. Some pills, however, do work far more quickly than others. But it’s really the clit cream and gels which the women prefer, and they like those products (as, for example, “Liquid V Female Stimulating Gel” through which, according to the product description, ‘menthol intensifies sensitivity with a warm, tingling sensation that awakens the pleasure nerves in the clitoris’…amplifying and multiplying orgasms) because they work instantly and at the moment.”

As far as erection pills of the Cialis/Viagra type in the erotic, non-prescription retail world, Rock Hard Weekend seems to be one of the more popular items for men. A single capsule (usually sold at under $10) guarantees a stiff one in 30 minutes and supposedly works for 72 hours. In other words, take it Friday night, and you’re good to go for the entire (as the trademark label itself states) weekend.

Yet, while women might have an aversion to pills, they seem far more conducive to taking a stimulant in a consumable liquid form. In fact, the “Rock On Drink: His & Hers Combo” from Screaming O is an enormously popular berry-flavored potion. Made of natural ingredients, the drink, claims that when taken one hour before sexual activity, enhances “libido, stamina, pleasure and desire” for both women and men.

“Women come into our stores wanting to buy something for their man, like a Screaming O Cock Ring,” notes Jacques Maurice, director of purchasing for Fairvilla Megastores, “and then they see this ‘Rock On for Her’ product, and their curiosity is triggered. They start asking questions about it. It’s definitely a conversation builder, which comes in both drink and pill forms.

“From what I hear the drink tastes very similar to a Red Bull. And it can be mixed into an alcoholic beverage, which is perfect for many women still not comfortable with taking a tablet for this type of arousal. They can drink the beverage itself alone or, again, mix it with another drink, alcohol or otherwise. Most of the men’s arousal drinks are developed like that, as well. The effect depends on the person, of course, but it typically takes 30 minutes to an hour to take effect, basically enhancing sexual excitement for the woman,” Maurice said.

Which, of course, begs the question: Do many women really come into these sex stores by themselves to buy this stuff?

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

“Women these days are free to the thought of trying things which they wouldn’t try before,” said Maurice, in reference to not only trying such items as the popular ‘Rock On for Her’ product but also going to sex-product retail stores with a boyfriend, husband, girlfriend or even by themselves. “Our clientele has grown substantially in the female demographic to the point where I’d say it’s 60/40 these days — and by that ratio I mean 60 percent women to 40 percent men.”

Part of the independence such female consumers exhibit is in large part due to the fact that many of today’s erotic retail stores — such as Adam & Eve, Fairvilla and Castle Megastores — take pride in catering toward female clientele by advertising themselves as “clean, well-lit” establishments.

“Our retail environments are well-lit on the outside as well as on the inside,” said Jasen Bartlett, marketing director of Castle Megastores, most of which are located in such Western States as Arizona, Washington and Oregon. “We’re not small stores with subdued lighting. Rather, they’re luxuriously large and comfortably lit. We gear our stores 100 percent toward couples and women so that they feel safe overall. Consequently, they’ve very prone to return to our establishments.”

The demographic of women and couples who shop at such megastores as Fairvilla and Castle also leans toward a younger set in their early to mid-twenties, including many newlyweds.

But on-site locations aside, what about mail order and cyberspace demographics pertaining to sexual-enhancement products?

Ken Lassiter at Adam & Eve noted that while younger females and couples tend to utilize their online product menu, men — usually in the older age range, 40 years old and up — seem more apt to order through Adam & Eve’s approximately 64-page catalog. In fact, 75 percent of Adam & Eve’s mail-order customers are male, typically purchasing DVDs, aside from such sexual-enhancement products as erection pills and potency potions. Women and couples, on the other hand, tend to make on-line purchases via AdamEve.com for not only erection pills, but also lotions, creams and sprays.

Lassiter said, “Well, as far as pills go, the customer will pay good money for them — if they work. If they don’t work,” he added with sincere rather than mocking laughter, “they’ll let you know about it.”

SEX ED. 101— AND BEYOND!

However, male or female, cream or pill, volumizer or vibrator, the store reps — marketing directors and buyers alike — remind the customer knowing what he/she is buying and how it might affect them is of primary importance. That stated, retailers tend to notice that many clients, male ones in particular, are concerned about three things before purchasing a sexual-enhancement product in, say, a pill form; namely, 1) How long will the effects of the product last? 2) Can the customer take the product with alcohol? and 3) If the customer is on medication, will the pill/potion negatively affect them?

Consequently, your more reputable adult stores are more than willing to inform customers by fully answering any burning questions they might have.

Kris Kay, the editor of StorErotica.com Magazine — which brings retailers the latest news, trends, information and products related to the erotic retail industry — said that while some erection-pill products like ExtenZe are popular among males, such products, many advertised as dietary supplements, can also be inadvertently abused by your less-knowledgeable consumer.

“If you take two or three of these erection pills in one sitting,” Kay said, “you can get to the point where you have a boner that’s out of control, and you’re hard for days — which is very undesirable for your average male.

“And it doesn’t matter to us what adult the retailers sell the sexual enhancement products like get-hard pills to — as long as they sell the product responsibly; and that doesn’t mean parodying what’s advertised on the product. It means properly, thoroughly, accurately educating themselves about the products and then passing that information on to the consumer.”

Castle Megastores for one have what is called “Castle University,” a training area where salespeople and/or store clerks are sent to receive formal raining from internal programs, vendor training and/or select specialists on various products sold by the megastores.

CYBERSPACE VERSUS CLEAN, WELL-LIT PLACE

Of course, what with many consumers shopping on the Internet these days — and the negative effects of this online retail shopping being felt in the music and print industries alike — would consumers of adult products be more prone to stay at home and order their sexual-enhancement items rather than venture into a neighborhood megastore?

Adam & Eve, Castle and Fairvilla Megastore reps all answer in the negative, as sales are far from limp, er, down at their retail stores. In fact, sales are way up (pun, anyone?). And even though these same adult distributors have been progressively covering themselves for years by selling their products both online and in stores, these same retail outlets attribute their success in the “clean, well-lit” marketplace to customer satisfaction.

In fact, websites like Fairvilla.com, AdamEve.com and CastleMegastore.com are partially geared toward leading the customers into their retail outlets. After all, there’s nothing like purchasing a product the same day you decide to buy it. Who has time to wait for the postman when you’re in the throes of passion?

“Sure, the Internet may be synonymous with anonymity,” StorErotica’s Kay notes, “but if you’re a good retail outlet and a good retailer, cyberspace is of no consequence, the Internet doesn’t matter. A good retailer can still sell those products advertised on the Internet in their stores.”

“Besides, there’s that old adage which still rings true: You can’t download a dildo,” he added.

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