Pleasure Products: Not Toying Around

Q. Boyer

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, like many other industry sectors sellers of high-end sex toys are taking stock and tracking recent trends, seeking to make optimal use of their shelf space, both literal and virtual. To help guide purchasing agents, retailers and product promoters alike, XBIZ recently sat down with several industry leaders to get their perspective on the current state of affairs in their market.

“Technology is hot right now,” says Entrenue President Joe Casella. “Several companies have managed to find subtle and unique ways to reinvent the vibrating wheel, so to speak, and we’re quite impressed by the results—and how successful their sales already have been. We also are seeing a new focus on packaging that gives brands a signature look, from Jimmyjane’s stark mainstream boxes to Toyfriend’s urbaninspired styling.”

I find distributors that have the same sort of passion for the product that I do, and let them have a skin in the game, so to speak. -Andy Green, president, Xgen Products

Casella singled out Jimmyjane’s “Hello Touch” as a particularly strong seller, calling the device “an innovative twist on traditional fingertip vibes, with a sleek design void of the bulky shape that often hinders the sensual experience.”

“Rather than put a mass of plastic or silicone in between the user’s finger and his or her body, Jimmyjane created a unit worn around the wrist that sends powerful vibration to two small pads that sit on the fingertips,” Casella notes. “Three times the power and a third of the size—now that’s hot.”

Another product that reflects the popularity of technologically advanced sex toys is the Stronic, from Fun Factory. In creating the Stronic, Casella said, Fun Factory “tossed aside the traditional concept of ‘vibration equals pleasure’ to create a completely new sensation: pulsation.”

“Their team created patented technology that provides a rhythmic thrusting motion for a realistic internal sensation unlike anything else on the market, and creating a sex toy that no other company has done before is a major feat,” Casella added.

Kelly Szwed, marketing and promotions coordinator for Williams Trading Company, noted that Williams’ current bestseller is another example of the role of technology in the current market: The NU Senselle Point from Novel Creations.

“They are new to the marketplace and setting the scene on fire,” Szwed said of the Senselle Point. “This silicone bullet has 20 functions to choose from and a docking station for convenience of charging that comes with both a plug and USB cord.”

Other hot items in the Williams catalog include the Luna Beads by Lelo (which Szwed noted continue to sell well even now that the 50 Shades of Grey furor has died down a bit), the Pump Worx line from Pipedream Products, and various Screaming O products, including the Ring O, Big O, O Wow, O Plus and O Yeah, among others.

For XGen Products President Andy Green, the clear and immediate answer to what’s working for his company boils down to a single brand: Bodywand.

“While a lot of our products fall under lingerie and related accessories, our flagship toy brand at this point is the Bodywand,” Green told XBIZ. “It has been consistently picking up steam since we launched it three years ago, and retailers are now picking up the products in the line both domestically and internationally.”

That last point is crucial, Green notes, because in seeking to maximize the return on his company’s investment in the Bodywand line, the question of where to sell has been just as important as what product to promote.

“It took us a while to get there, but now we’re having a lot of success in expanding our reach into foreign markets,” Green said. “My main goal is to find distributors who take a keen interest in the Bodywand brand, and really work to make it ‘their’ brand in their particular distribution area.”

Central to XGen’s approach, Green said, is establishing solid relationships with distributors who area good fit for the Bodywand brand, and who will invest sufficient time and energy into pushing the product to make them a good fit with the XGen strategy.

“I find distributors that have the same sort of passion for the product that I do, and let them have a skin in the game, so to speak,” Green said. “Our distributors know I’m behind them 100%, and that I’m not going to strike deals with their local competition that could undermine their position in the market.”

One mistake that some make in approaching international markets, Green added, is failing to fully appreciate the role of language, and failing to make an effort to ensure that the true thrust of their marketing message gets through to consumers.

“You can’t just have the product name or product type translated by itself on the packaging,” Green said. “After all ‘massager’ might not have the same connotation in that market if you just translate the word literally and provide no other context. That’s why all our product features are fully described, in full, complete sentences, not just in English, but in French, Spanish and German, as well, giving consumers in those markets a lot more to go on when making their purchasing decisions.”

Going forward, the experts queried by XBIZ expect that technological enhancements and international expansion will continue to drive demand in the months and years ahead — expectations that are mirrored across a wide array of products and markets, adult and otherwise — as well as more items on the market made specifically for men.

“We anticipate seeing more creative and forward-thinking sex toy designs for men in the future,” Entrenue’s Casella said. “A new product called Hot Octopuss has found a way to reinvent traditional stroker designs with a vibrating unit that also can be used as a hands-free clitoral stimulator, and even simultaneously between two partners.”

Green said that he expects companies to continue to look to foreign and emerging markets to drive growth, but cautioned that the international market is no “gimme,” and won’t much help companies that currently find themselves struggling domestically.”