Dreaming of a Blue Xmas

Arch Stanton
Let’s face it; Christmas couldn’t be a lousier time of year for the nation’s economy to bottom out. Then again, is there ever a good time for a recession? Yet it’s exactly because of the economic downslide that Christmas spending is expected to be down by almost 50 percent from what it was in 2007, according to the 23rd annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group Inc. Per the same random survey, mall traffic will see a definite drop, with 33.9 percent going less to enclosed malls.

However — and here’s the potential good news for porn retailers — free-standing stores are expected to be more popular this year, with 84.8 percent of consumers shopping there more, which is up from 62.9 percent last year. Why is that good news for adult retailers in these economically trying times? Simple: How many porn and/or novelty stores are sandwiched in between a Bebe and Gap outlet in a shopping mall?

Precisely! Most of your adult retail outlets are free-standing businesses. So, take note, all you porn stores and adult marketers: This shouldn’t be a black Christmas many economists are predicting it to be.

That said, what exactly are adult retailers doing this year to boost their holiday sales? How are they putting the ‘X’ in X-mas? What special approaches are they taking to emphasize the ho’ in “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

Bruce Walmer, district manager for the Luv Boutiques (formerly Penthouse Boutiques) and In the Mood chains in Connecticut, is particularly upbeat about the highly festive atmosphere in his stores during the year’s typically biggest spending period.

“Absolutely!” Bruce told us, with no little degree of enthusiasm. “Our stores are all decorated out. It’s definitely the time of year to bring out the red and white, which we’ve draped all over our stores. And many of our staff members are wearing the classic Christmas caps to get everyone visiting our stores in the proper holiday mood.

“In terms of our more seasonal displays,” Walmer continues, “a couple of our more prominent ones would have to be our Naughty Santa and Playful Elves lingerie lines, gloriously exhibited upon our mannequins throughout our stores.”

To keep customers extra happy, especially those patrons with a sweet tooth, Walmer says Luv Boutiques also are offering candy. “We’ve got plenty of candy canes for the customers,” Walmer chimes. “Actually, we did a similar thing recently during Halloween by offering our valued customers traditional orange and black candy, as well as chocolate Kisses.”

Déjà Vu Love Boutiques also are doing everything they can to ring in the erotic side of Christmas cheer.

“We’ve actually been doing quite well despite the economic downturn,” says Cori, who runs the Déjà Vu Love Boutique in Lansing, Mich. “And,” she blissfully adds, “our store’s definitely decked out for the holidays: the trees, the lights, the employees wearing the red and white Christmas outfits … And in keeping with the whole spirit of giving, we also hand out free samples of various products to our customers.”

Many Déjà Vu Love Boutiques are separate entities; but some — like the Lansing store — are directly connected to an actual Déjà Vu strip club (“as you enter, the club is off to the right,” notes Cori, “while we’re off to the left”). In turn, the Love Boutique in Lansing collaborates closely with the dance club, thus creating a cross-pollination of patron interest and sales. In fact, Déjà Vu dancers themselves frequent the novelty store, buying erotic outfits that are Christmas oriented for their various stage performances.

“We get a lot of female shoppers and couples here,” Cori points out. “Since Liz [Lyonnais] took over as regional manager of our stores, we’ve really become even more couples friendly, so it’s definitely a good thing.” Moving away from the Midwest now, one of the country’s leading adult retailers, Castle Megastores, has sundry outlets on the west and northwest coasts, and Castle’s President/CEO Mark Franks says that one of the main reasons that sales are always strong for them — particularly during the Christmas season — is because his stores always take a “very aggressive approach” to selling the more popular products.

“First of all,” states Franks, “we always make sure that we’re very well stocked for the holidays. I mean if the consumers like a certain product, we do our utmost best to make sure it’s available for them. And if, on the whole, they don’t particularly care for any particular items, then we simply stop carrying them.

“Secondly, we’re not only trying to push new items, but we’re also promoting a lot of gift ideas and products, as well as we’re having our usual amount of signings from porn stars at our various locations to draw in the customers.”

Just a few the top-of-the-line adult actresses who’ve participated in signings at various Castle Megastores have included Wicked vixens Jessica Drake and Kaylani Lei, while early December features signings by Digital Playground’s Jesse Jane, Riley Steele and Stoya at Castle locations in Washington, Alaska, and Oregon to promote one of the year’s biggest x-rated hits, “Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge.”

Ironically, while Franks revels in having porn stars appear at Castle locations, particularly during the Christmas season, he doesn’t think Christmas-themed porn is all that it’s nut-crackered up to be.

As Franks, quite frankly, confesses: “As a rule of thumb, Christmas DVDs have never been a big seller for us. I mean, when Christmas is over, who wants to watch those movies? We’ve definitely received a few Christmas screeners but, from our standpoint, those kinds of DVDs have a very small sales window.”

Peter G., sales manager of IVD, one of the largest distributors of adult videos in the U.S., hardly agrees with Franks. In fact, Peter and the public relations team over at IVD, along with their sister distributor of novelties ECN, sent out key tips to business owners last month with constructive suggestions on how brick-and-mortar stores can boost holiday sales — including, yes, X-rated holiday themed DVDs — and take advantage of typical holiday shopping trends; adhering, that is, to the notion that extra traffic should be streaming into the stores, as customers have an urge to purchase that “extra special” Christmas gift for their significant other.

“Customers love a holiday theme,” says Peter, “and Christmas is just one of the many holidays for which there are countless DVD titles out there. In turn, we recommend that our adult retail stores have a holiday-themed section, small rack or even a bin. Stores should, of course, put up holiday decorations, make themed displays on end caps or even just put signs up throughout the store to direct the traffic. Also, retailers should make their low cost DVD’s become last-minute gift ideas and impulse buys.”

In terms of increasing novelty sales during the Christmas season via creative positioning, Brain Herbstman, sales rep for ECN, has more than just a few creative tips for his retailers.

“We have hundreds of ideas for impulse buys to maximize [retail] sales. And we’d highly recommend putting some of these products close to the counter, if not right near the register. Stores can develop point-of-purchase display sections quickly and easily using small-packaged products like Santa-themed wind up toys from Pipedream. Of course, there’s also the Candy Cane vibes from CalExotics.

“Plus, you can ask customers, ‘How would you like some wrapping paper for all those gifts?’ and show them naughty holiday wrapping paper. It’s the perfect finished look for a box of sexy stocking stuffers.”


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