opinion

Pleasure Products, Sophistication & Sales

Q. Boyer

It’s no secret that one of the few adult industry market segments that continues to experience strong growth in revenue is the pleasure products sector. At a time in which it seems that virtually every adult content product is readily available for free on the Internet (whether or not the producer intends for that to be the case), pleasure products are far more resilient to the forces of piracy — and more resistant to the everything-must-be-free bent of modern youth culture, as well.

In stark contrast to the penny-pinching consumer behaviors that currently rule the space occupied by online adult content, leaders in the pleasure product sector report that their consumers are growing increasingly sophisticated, and more importantly, have proven that they are not averse to high price points if a product meets their expectations with respect to quality and functionality.

We see our customers becoming savvier and more sophisticated. -Sarah Tomchesson Director Of Business Development, The Pleasure Chest

“We see our customers becoming savvier and more sophisticated,” Sarah Tomchesson, director of business development for The Pleasure Chest, told XBIZ. “For example, the kink department, which has always been a mainstay of our business, is currently following the same growth trends as vibrating toys in our stores. Five years ago, we merchandised electro-stimulation products in an obscure case, and now we are bringing on the full range of Mystim’s vibrators with electrodes and presenting them alongside other high-end manufacturers’ vibrators and Fun Factory’s pulsators.”

Eldorado Account Manager Alex Cage concurred with Tomchesson, and noted that, generally speaking, “high technology products are trending right now in brick-and-mortar stores.”

“MyStim, Hello Touch, Magic Motion, JOPEN and the Betty Page lines are all selling well,” Cage said, noting that products perceived to be safer or better made are also driving revenue, regardless of whether they are high tech. “Silicone products are moving due to their hygienic and body-safe benefits.”

Diana Fitzgerald, sales manager for Holiday Products, told XBIZ that with consumers showing more interest and greater savvy concerning the designs and materials of products, it is incumbent upon manufacturers, distributors and retailers to provide in their marketing materials the sort of information and education that consumers are looking for. The good news is that when companies do that, they are rewarded with a consumer base that’s willing to spend.

“Everyone knows that women have become the largest consumers of pleasure products,” Fitzgerald said. “They are educating themselves on what to put into their bodies — and what not to put in their bodies, too. They don’t mind paying more for high quality. Manufacturers are following the trends and providing more education, better product support and marketing that is crafted to appeal to a more sophisticated customer. Lelo is an excellent example of this business model. Lelo’s marketing materials and product support are at the forefront of the marketplace, and are a huge part of their continuing success.”

Another ongoing trend in the pleasure products sector is strong sales of BDSM and fetish products, according to XR Brands General Manager Randy Alvstad.

“One of our most dynamic lines is the Master Series, which has inspired retailers across the country to expand their reach into more advanced fetish and BDSM tools,” Alvstad told XBIZ.

“The brand name says it all; these products are for consumers who feel that they are reaching the peak of their sexual exploration. Master Series has the widest variety of accessories that appeal to all sorts of lifestyle affinities, and they’re presented in modern, sleek and clean packaging that eliminates any direct connotations to kink or taboo topics. Master Series recognizes that pleasure, pain, role-playing and more are all part of being a sexual being — and provides all the tools to help men and women express and enjoy it.”

One impetus for consumers’ exploration of BDSM products, and of pleasure products in general, is that there has been a significant reduction in the extent to which consumers think of such products as taboo, and the extent to which they think of themselves as “perverts” if they enjoy using them, as well. Here too, providing education is a major component of marketing success, creating an opportunity for retailers to help their customers by providing information that goes beyond assembly instructions or proper use warnings.

“The public’s general idea and opinion about our industry and our offerings has evolved in recent years,” Screaming O representative Conde Aumann told XBIZ. “Sex toys are no longer seen as the solutions to an intimate ‘problem’, and instead more shoppers treat sex toys as exciting sexual enhancements. They build intimacy and keep things fun and fresh, and more retailers are catering to this mindset by offering couples nights, classes and other events that help educate and inform. This helps their customers learn about all of the ways that sex toys can add a new layer to couples’ love and sex lives and have a great time doing it!”

Of course, it always helps a product’s sales to stand out from the crowd, and nothing grabs the consumer’s eye better than a product that occupies an unusual niche in the market, or that is immediately, visibly perceptible as being something different or special. According to PHS International CEO Chuck Harnish, those are the qualities propelling the success of his company’s current bestseller: Bijoux de Nip feathered nipple clamps.

“They are new and unique,” Harnish says of the Bijoux de Nip clamps. “There are not many other types of ‘feminine’ and soft nipple clamps on the market, and these were the first to introduce a stylish and sophisticated series using natural feathers in attractive combinations. Feather fashion is still very much on trend and extends the line’s appeal far beyond just sexual play.”

Of course, in addition to quality and distinctiveness, it’s also important to offer variety, Harnish emphasized.

“With the Bijoux de Nip clamps, each SKU is unique (no feather is exactly alike) and shoppers choose theirs according to their own style,” Harnish said. “Some are vivid, colorful and ostentatious while others boast more muted and subdued natural tones. Plus they come in five different clamp styles — black tweezer, blue tweezer, pink tweezer, alligator and wide tweezer — and each has two to three different feather varieties to maximize their appeal; variety is key.”

One thing that the experts queried by XBIZ don’t see happening any time soon is a major transition away from brick-and-mortar where the sales of pleasure products is concerned, despite the fact online sales of pleasure products have increased fairly steadily over the years since the Internet first became a viable marketplace.

“Despite the public’s proclivity to purchase pretty much everything they need online, consumers will always be attracted to shopping in adult stores because of our tactile tendencies,” Alvstad opined. “We enjoy touching, feeling, smelling — using all of our senses to make this kind of personal purchase, and Internet shopping will always be an impersonal, two-dimensional experience. They key today is for retailers to understand how to create a satisfying adult shopping experience in their stores, and why it’s essential for the future of their businesses. Because no matter how convenient the Internet becomes, it’ll never be able to make consumers feel the same sense of reward and excitement they get from a physical in-store shopping trip.”

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