opinion

Friends With Benefits: Competition in Adult Retail

Mark Espinosa

It’s been nearly 50 years since the Great Dildo Drought of 2020. Society’s sex toy shelves were completely drained of all their resources due to unchecked over-copulation. As human beings became more and more accepting of their own sexuality, the sex toy industry was completely unprepared for the sudden and massive influx of “passion crazed” consumers. They swarmed to their local sex shops like sexy locust and picked clean every pleasure product they could wrap their bodies around. Those poor retailers never stood a chance against that infinite tidal wave consisting only of “quivering nethers.” They say, in the still of the night, you can still hear their moans of ecstasy. For years the drought lingered on and continued to deprive the good people of this planet of their inherent right to unending ecstasy. All that remained was the ruins of a world long forgotten. From those remnants, something glorious rose from the ashes. (I was tempted to say “rose from the asses.”) As the pleasure industry began to rebuild civilization, they realize that the only way they could reclaim their former glory was to band together. Separate, they were vulnerable; united, they were unstoppable. When the history books look back at the Great Dildo Drought, they do not speak of the countless orgasms that went un-orgasmed, no... They speak of a unified sex toy industry that rose up and took back the world from mundane sex!

Of all the interesting personality traits that comprise the typical sex shop customer, I always found “brand loyalty” to be one of the more interesting. (Stick with me, I promise that I’m going to tie this all together.) This concept goes far beyond shopping for sensuality products. Whether it’s groceries, clothing or furniture, consumers have a tendency to stick with the few select retailers that have properly serviced them in the past. Naturally, these relationships are far from exclusive. The complicated aspect of this, for retailers, is the pressure to maintain these relationships by continually stocking the merchandise their particular community demands. The problem with this is that the sex toy industry covers a wide spectrum of products and lifestyles. It’s very difficult for one store to carry the entire range of sexuality that our industry supplies. This results in stores having to be very strategic about the products they do choose to carry. (This concept also applies to manufacturers and distributors.) In order to be successful, you have to pick a focus and run with it. Sadly, no matter how calculated you are with your inventory, there is always going to be that one customer who is looking for that one product that you don’t carry. What happens then? What do you do when you know for a fact that the sex shop down the block carries the item that they are looking for?

I generally feel like the “rivalry” that exists in our industry is more concocted in the minds of our customers and less on actual rivalry.

Within most industries, there is always going to be a strong sense of competition. It’s one of the key factors of business that continuously drives innovation and growth. Competition has a way of forcing you to question your decisions and experiment with unexplored avenues. It’s what keeps you on your game.

What makes the pleasure industry different from most is that we are constantly fighting a war against cultural perceptions as a whole. I can’t help but feel like this struggle has united our industry in a way that is extremely rare. Despite that unity though, there is always going to be that neighboring business that divides your customers. This is the nature of business. While this retail opposition does exist, the competitiveness that often accompanies such a dynamic does not need to. I know that it’s silly to suggest some sort of great unification among sex toy retailers and for businesses to cease trying to one-up one another, I don’t think it’s outlandish to purpose that retailers be more open to the possibility of working a little bit more closely to their neighborhood peers.

I generally feel like the “rivalry” that exists in our industry is more concocted in the minds of our customers and less on actual rivalry. Because of the specific and stigmatized nature of our business, people generally feel like we must be at odds with the dildo shop next store. Whenever I’m asked about this, my answer is always “there’s plenty of room for everybody.” For the most part, this is extremely true. One store can’t carry everything and it’s Business 101 to want to fill the gaps left by your “competitors.” What I purpose, instead of casually spying on your industry peers, is creating an open dialogue with them. Communication can drastically and positively impact your sales. We’re all guilty of not keeping our eyes on our own papers. I know how easy it is to slink through a website or to send a secret agent to penetrate the walls of your neighboring shop, but, peaking at someone’s selection only gives you a small glimpse into their buying and selling. I know this is an obvious “easier said than done” statement, but, the positive results of an open dialogue can be resounding. Having a clearer understanding of the mission statement of the shop next store can help you solidify one of your own. Also, it’s extremely reassuring to know that the products that are doing extremely well for you, don’t sell so well with the competition and vice versa. What do you say, before the Great Dildo Drought of 2020, why don’t you give the shop down the road a call and take them out for coffee? You never know, you may discover an ally just in time for the Great Vibrator Wars of 2080.

As national sales manager of Pleasure Works Wholesale, Mark Espinosa believes that as the industry progresses alongside communications technology, it’s important that we always remember that we get to say that we “give people orgasms for a living!” So, why not have a little fun in the process?

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