Offering the consumer choice is the key to successful retailing yet choice does not mean 14 different colors of the same vibrator. Or does it? The classic sex toy colors used to be a radioactive “flesh” color that would better be described as orange, the occasional white or gold item and one other color – a dark brown that attempted to replicate African skin. At least that was my experience in the first adult shop I bought from – it was dingy, quite seedy and very limited in what it stocked by today’s standards, so let’s spool forward to 2014.
Choice is now greater both in terms of design and functionality but one thing that can easily be overlooked is the role of ethnicity and sexual orientation in adult novelties and those who purchase them. These are subjects that can be delicate to approach, especially in some cultures within Europe yet shying away from considering them as a factor in what products to produce and stock can be a huge mistake for adult producers and retailers. Europe ranges from conservative and reserved populations to exotic cosmopolitan, ethnically diverse areas whose inhabitants’ acceptance of sexuality in all its forms challenges even the most open-minded of people.
Freedom of movement across E.U. means that the diversity of every member state is increasing over time.
Speaking to wholesalers across the spectrum of adult products illustrates this point.
At U.K. distributor Net 1 On 1 head buyer Danielle Warn’s comments certainly support this. “There’s a definite upward trend in the sale of products with an ‘ethnic’ element to their characteristics. SKUs that make a feature of skin color or an ‘exotic’ origin sell well and we are [therefore] stocking more of them.”
Products like “Pleasureskin Cock Cinnamon” in the Net 1 On 1 catalog with its dark chocolate brown color allude to African skin, and Doc Johnson’s Bam Brown Realistic 10.5” Cock tells it exactly like it is. If you’re looking for a sex toy modeled on the female anatomy the Misty Stone Fleshlight Girl proudly proclaims its African American features.
The lingerie market has lines that encourage purchasers from different ethnic backgrounds too, some obvious, others buyers might not expect. Sam Godfrey, sales executive at New Temptations gave me an insight into how that sector of the market is developing. “At New Temptations we are very receptive to the needs of all our customers, whatever their requirements. In fact we have just taken on one new line that’s manufactured in South America that caters for a ‘latin’ emphasis on ‘bums and boobs.’”
New Temptations is also selling specific product lines and colors to a new crop of specialist retailers who cater for the black and Asian communities that exist particularly in the former industrial hubs. Specifically selling with a “party plan” business model, these businesses are often owned and run by members of the black and Asian community who understand the culture and needs of their customer base. One such company is Poppy Black, a company that is focused on discretely selling directly adult products and lingerie into the 35- to 45-year-old age group; a demographic with disposable income and specific buying needs.
Catering directly to customers with an African heritage is Give Pleasure Products, creators of the Give Lube brand who recently announced, “Noir – The World’s First Lube Developed for Black Skin.” Noir is a silicone-based lube with added aloe vera and vitamin E that originates from customer feedback as the company’s Managing Director Nigel Powell explained, “The idea first came about after exhibiting at The Vitality Show in early 2013. We had so many black men and women love our Silicone+ lube. Some came back the next day and others had said their friends had told them about the product. They loved the feel during intimacy and loved how it left their skin feeling afterwards.”
Powell has also stated that the formulation of the product is based on the work of Dr. Rolanda Johnson Wilkerson, Ph.D, leading the company to say that “[yes], black skin does have different properties to white skin. It’s all about Trans-epidermal Water Loss (TEWL), which is about the quantity of water that passes from inside the body and out through the skin. Six out of eight studies in the U.S. indicated that TEWL is greater in black skin compared with white skin.”
By addressing this specific issue that seem to be supported by scientific evidence Give Pleasure Products have both created a product with advantages for one market that could be used more widely by any consumer with dry skin. Furthermore if they and other manufacturers can bring to market similarly targeted products at the right price point this is a new and potentially lucrative marketing angle.
Freedom of movement across E.U. means that the diversity of every member state is increasing over time. In addition to that inward migration of skilled staff into occupations where skills shortages exist in the E.U. member states mean that the population is increasingly diverse, educated and has money to spend. Of course without a choice those consumers will buy the adult products we all buy but if a choice exists, either in the shape of products tailored to them or retail channels that fit their lifestyle and culture then that’s where they will spend their money.
Alex Parker is an adult product consultant, journalist and erotic author. Since 2005 he has worked within the adult novelty and adult movie industry as reviewer, correspondent and advisor to some of Europe’s largest manufacturers and distributors.