While the adult entertainment industry in general has been suffering through a down market for several years, the pleasure product sector has been thriving, from established power brands to new up-and-comers. In particular, adult specialty and novelty items have boomed as an industry sub-sector, and provided consumers with a bevy of products that thrill and entertain on levels that go beyond sexual gratification, sometimes stimulating the consumer’s funny bone as much as their libido.
With the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey and other, edgier erotic fiction has come increased consumer interest in items that are kinkier and more ‘extreme’ — a trend that is not lost on distributors of adult specialty products.
Vibration, oscillation, rotation and thrusting are great, but shoppers are always looking for new and exciting ways to feel pleasure. -Beth Brown, Sex Toy Distributing
“We’ve noticed more retailers — especially some of the larger chains — have become more interested in stocking fetish and BDSM items that go beyond the softer styles made famous by popular erotic fiction,” Beth Brown, wholesale manager for Sex Toy Distributing told XBIZ. “This includes gags and nipple clamps, as well as high-tech sex simulation devices.”
Brown cites the Maestro from LoveBotz, one of the first fully adjustable sex machines on the market, as an example of a product that might once have been a bit too edgy for the market, but that has fared quite well, in large part because of the careful thought put into the aesthetics of the device.
“The Maestro designers totally rethought the idea of a sex machine — which can have a kinky or darker taboo attached — and created something that looked modern, stylish and a little steam-punk, which has been great for display in our customers’ stores,” Brown said. “Plus it thrusts at up to 300 RPM, so it packs some serious power.”
Randy Alvstad, general manager of XR Brands, reported observing a similar trend, with consumers snapping up products that might once have been a bit ‘too severe for prime time,’ so to speak.
“We created Intake, a safe and easy-to-use anal suction device that’s not for the faint of heart,” Alvstad said. “It creates an air-tight pressured seal that, with the twist of a knob, pulls the anal opening into the cylinder to create a pleasant ‘rose bud’ appearance that many men and women enjoy. The pressure is released with a simple left-turn of the knob and makes it safe and simple to experiment with extreme suction.”
Another XR product that has garnered larger than expected sales is the Governor, an anal plug originally designed with the truly adventurous in mind.
“We released the Governor after a surprisingly popular reaction from our customers to a prototype at a trade show,” Alvstad told XBIZ. “It’s a fist-shaped plug originally developed for specialty sales, but it ultimately exceeded our expectations and became a must-have anal plug. Our customers had to have it, and retailers were excited to stock it.”
Of course, with all that extreme action going on, some good lube is definitely in order.
“Passion Lubricants recently came out with three enhanced lubes featuring caffeine, a B-12 vitamin boost, and hemp extract,” Alvstad noted. “These are unique for their addition of naturally occurring botanicals and/or stimulants to give users the added benefit of energy, vitamins and intimate hydration, respectively.”
In a consumer market always in search of a new thrill, Brown says retailers are also on the lookout for products that offer entirely new and different ways to impart pleasure to their users.
“Electro-stimulation (“e-stim”) has also caught the eye of more retailers as an alternative stimulation method,” Brown said. “Vibration, oscillation, rotation and thrusting are great, but shoppers are always looking for new and exciting ways to feel pleasure — and rather than seeing e-stim as something scary or reserved for the dungeon, shoppers and retailers alike are embracing it for its dual use: great for hands-free orgasms, but also great for muscle relaxation and soreness relief.”
Fortunately for consumers who might not want to go ‘all-in’ on electro-stimulation, Brown notes that there’s “a variety of brands out there that make affordable and accessible violet wands and devices that even newbies and first-timers enjoy.”
“The Arcana Wand from Zeus Electrosex is one of the latest,” Brown said. “It’s a wand massager similar to women’s favorite Magic Wand, but it artfully combines vibrating massage with the electro excitement of e-stim. It allows users to alternate or enjoy both simultaneously — perfect for providing tension relief and incredible sexual pleasure.”
From a distributor’s point of view, the bottom line with adult specialty products is that they offer a way for brands to set themselves apart from the crowded market for more ‘traditional’ sex toys and novelty products, which is especially important in the early stages of a company’s lifecycle.
“We are known for many things — fully merchandised brands, affordable and accessible designs, quality construction — but we got our start creating products that cater to niche markets,” Alvstad said. “Many of these products are incredibly unique and certainly inspire double-takes from our customers, which only helps solidify our reputation for keeping our fingers on the pulse of multiple markets.”