2016 Outlook: Adult Retailers Eye Coming Trends

Genie Davis

With the New Year, it’s always a good time to look ahead at the retail picture for the coming year. So take out your crystal ball — or read on for insight into product categories and trends for the coming year.

At the retail chain Fascinations headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., buyer Keri Birchby says the company is focusing on the growth of their health and wellness categories. “That includes active wear, supplements and the most up-to-date products for improving sexual health,” she relates. Birchby believes the health and wellness areas will exhibit continued growth throughout the New Year. In the New Year, vendors and consumers can essentially expect “an assortment of our innovative products with a focus on new categories that tie into the Fascinations experience,” she says, adding that the company will continue to work with its current vendors. According to Birchby, Fascinations’ most profitable season is the winter holidays and Valentine’s Day, with Valentine’s Day as the top performer.

We expect to see fetish and men’s products continue to grow, including supplements and enhancements. Apparel has been fantastic in 2015 and is on target to stay strong well into the New Year. —Debra Peterson, Fairvilla Megastore

Debra Peterson, Chief Marketing Officer for Fairvilla Megastore and Fairvilla’s Sexy Things in Maitland, Fla., asserts that all product categories look promising as the company enters 2016. “Specifically, we expect to see fetish and men’s products continue to grow, including supplements and enhancements. Apparel has been fantastic in 2015 and is on target to stay strong well into the New Year.”

Peterson says the most profitable seasons for Fairvilla are Halloween through Easter. “However, last year we remained in a growth trend throughout the year. We were continuing to grow even in the ‘slow’ months.”

Fairvilla will continue to find new profit centers that fall in the parameters of the company’s vision, according to Peterson. “These might be in the form of unique product offerings, or the creation of pop-up stores at select events. Staff excellence and education will also remain a top priority for us, enhancing the in-store experience for our customers.”

Peterson also weighs in on how shopping at an adult store has evolved over the years. Over time, she believes that adult stores have figured out that utilizing best business practices make a positive difference. “We can be mainstream in our approach to design and operation, and still maintain the flair that makes us unique as retailers,” she says. “We believe that attention to better store design and merchandising will remain a top priority next year, and that manufacturers will continue to support these efforts.”

To reach new consumers in the coming year, Peterson will be following a social media track successfully established this year. “We have a full-time social media/advertising specialist that really made a difference in 2015,” she explains. “We will aggressively leverage the technology of social media along with some traditional advertising to target new audiences.”

At SB Books in Santa Barbara, president and CEO Donovan Green believes that the luxury market is the product category that will show the most growth in 2016. “This is a real catch 22 for me. The products are made very well and give the consumer great value. The problem is they last a very long time. While this is a good thing for the customer, it also means that the customer is less likely to purchase again,” he states. The result? “We focus on items that enhance the high end toys, like Jopen. We also try and expose the customer to items that they might not have thought about to increase sales.”

Vendors and consumers will see a change in SB Books in the New Year. “I am going to transition into less item variety, and really focus on quality toys. There are so many choices out there, it’s impossible to carry everyone’s line,” he attests. “I want my people to know the ins and outs of the lines we do carry so that we can represent them well.” He adds that his partnerships with manufacturers will become much more important in the coming year.

Green believes the most important trend for adult stores, and one that will continue, is having an educated staff. “We really need to become more of a sexual-wellness resource to the communities that we serve. As the Walgreen’s and Rite Aids of the world expand into our products, we have to offer the consumer a better experience.”

And while offering that high-end experience, to reach new consumers, Green plans to move most of his marketing budget to mobile as he feels that’s the best way to engage consumers.

Like most adult retailers, Green cites December and February — the winter holidays through Valentine’s Day — as his most profitable months, year after year.

At Peekay Inc./A Touch of Romance stores, director of marketing Martin Walker has seen strong sales and growth in a variety of categories across the board. “Generally speaking, customers are looking for quality products, and are willing to invest in those products if the value is there.”

As to the coming year, like Green, Walker plans a continued focus on sexual health and wellness. “We partnered with System JO to introduce new JO Sexual Wellness Centers in all 48 of our stores in November,” he attests. “We anticipate several new wellness-centric product releases from a variety of vendors in 2016.”

To Walker, adult store shopping has evolved to offer a wider variety and range of products, a trend he expects will continue.

In Hollywood, Calif., at The Pleasure Chest, director of business development Sarah Tomchesson finds luxury add-ons becoming extremely popular in her stores. “High-end fetish apparel, lavish accessories, metal masks, high-end massage candles — these items are all outselling traditional novelties,” she asserts. “[However,] penis straws and cock pops are super fun, and will always have a place in our stores.”

Tomchesson notes that by incorporating more high end merchandising and training around “better selling” as opposed to more traditional add-on sales techniques, stores can more fully connect with customers and pair them with pieces that complement the high quality and long-lasting toys they purchase.

Tomchesson says vendors and consumers can both expect to see continued growth from her company. “With our fifth Pleasure Chest location recently opened on Broadway in Chicago, we will be focusing on expanding our customer base in that market in 2016. And we are always looking at ways to reach more customers nationwide.”

The evolution of adult stores continues in Tomchesson’s eyes, as customers themselves are becoming more well-informed about pleasure products and what they are putting into their bodies. “Thanks to the work of sex-positive retailers, educators and bloggers across the country, we have seen that customers are willing to invest in products with strong manufacturing standards, body conscious materials, ingredients, and warranties. These products far outsell products with lower price points,” she says, a trend she anticipates will continue.

To promote their products, Pleasure Chest’s outreach strategy is largely community-focused. Tomchesson adds, “Advertising is a necessity to a certain degree, but we’ve found building multifaceted partnerships with organizations, educators and other local or online sex-positives yields the best results in reaching folks in spaces they already value and trust.”

Overall, health and wellness categories appear to be a growing trend, as does increased consumer knowledge, an emphasis on quality products, and promotional partnerships. Here’s to a bright 2016.