trends

Retailers Talk BDSM Shopping Trends

Retailers Talk BDSM Shopping Trends
Alex Henderson

These days, BDSM is so mainstream that it is being depicted in everything from beer commercials to telenovelas. Floggers, paddles, ball gags and handcuffs were once considered the bad boys of adult retail; now, they are displayed prominently — and pleasure product distributors and retailers know that there is money to be made from selling BDSM and fetish products whether the customer is experienced or a newbie.

Fred Hovermann, owner of The Kink Shoppe in Philadelphia, explained that retailers need to recognize the differences between novices and seasoned BDSM players.

I would say the biggest difference between (novices) and the seasoned players is that the latter are more informed about safety of the gear and the way things are crafted. -Dr. Carol Queen, Good Vibrations

“Customers looking to get their feet wet in BDSM typically gravitate towards products like neoprene restraint kits, PVC bondage tape, and light-impact toys such as rubber string floggers and leather frat paddles,” Hovermann told XBIZ. “These are all great starting points for experimentation: not too intense, and for the most part, budget-friendly. Experienced players, on the other hand, tend to know what they want, ask for custom or special orders, and will spend more for higher quality items. They know their purchase is an investment.”

Annber Kealoha, manager of Deja Vu Love Boutique in Las Vegas, told XBIZ, “Most beginners like to be eased into the lifestyle. Basics such as handcuffs and whips are the best way to start. From that starting point, you can determine what you and your partner enjoy mutually.”

Nenna Joiner, owner of the Feelmore Adult Gallery in Oakland, noted that BDSM novices are likely to be more budget-minded than veteran kinksters.

“Beginners’ tastes will be based on budget, especially after you tell them how much the top leather product costs,” Joiner told XBIZ. “Experienced BDSM shoppers expect to pay the cost for durable and quality-made implements…. Beginners shop on the conservative end, generally purchasing products that either their friends have suggested or that were found in magazines.”

Dr. Carol Queen, staff sexologist for the Good Vibrations chain, asserted that discussing safety issues is a crucial part of BDSM education.

“I would say the biggest difference between (novices) and the seasoned players is that the latter are more informed about safety of the gear and the way things are crafted,” Queen told XBIZ. “We have to do some of the novice’s work for them in that regard by choosing items carefully as far as safety is concerned.”

Queen added, “Good Vibrations customers are more novice than experienced as a whole when it comes to BDSM — at least, that has been true for us historically. As we added BDSM gear in the 1990s, we often had to do rather significant education with heretofore vanilla people who were looking to spice it up in a kinkier way.”

Coyote Amrich, Good Vibrations’ product and purchasing manager, finds that today’s BDSM novices are fast learners.

“Folks are advancing quicker,” Amrich told XBIZ. “Where before, folks would walk in looking for a blindfold to spice things up, now they are cruising past and going right to spanking.”

Nick Mahler, director of sales for Dallas Novelty, stressed that retailers selling BDSM products must be prepared to answer a variety of questions and cater to a variety of tastes.

“At Dallas Novelty, we try to have a vast selection of bondage and fetish gear, from inexpensive brands all the way up to custom-made, high-end products that are built to order,” Mahler told XBIZ. “We are also adding new products almost daily so customers can find the latest products on the market with the most detailed information available. You can definitely tell when someone that is new to BDSM/fetish is buying their first toys because they’ll buy some of the cheaper lines and buy them in stages.”

Rachel Venning, co-founder of Babeland, finds that experienced BDSM players can be serious connoisseurs where kinky toys are concerned.

“Customer service is different with experienced BDSM customers because they may very well know more than the sales associate,” Venning told XBIZ. “They don’t want to be talked down to, but if a product has complicated functionality, they want to know how it works.”

Domina, partner relations manager for AdultShopping.com, emphasized that retailers should do everything possible to encourage a newcomer’s interest in BDSM.

“People who are just starting to explore BDSM tend to be very shy about the topic and giggle or blush a lot when you show them products,” Domina told XBIZ. “Seasoned players grab the flogger off the wall and start swatting their sub with it to test it out. So, it is important to know how to handle each type of customer. For beginners, you want to be inviting and open without being creepy and show them that there is nothing to be ashamed about.”

Allison Travers, director of marketing for Eldorado Trading Company, asserted that retailers and distributors must remember how diverse the market for BDSM products is.

“Eldorado’s purchasing team tries to buy for all experience levels and have recently ramped up purchasing for experienced consumers,” Travers told XBIZ. “Products that are great for beginners are cuffs, ticklers, blindfolds and products from the S&M line from Sportsheets or the Fifty Shades of Grey line from Lovehoney.”

Travers continued, “Variety is essential. Everyone is into different things and has different experiences; so, offering products that meet their tastes and skill level is a must.”

Erin Viereck, marketing and vendor liaison for pleasure products distributor Williams Trading Co., emphasized that BDSM education is as important for retailers as it is for consumers.

“The best restraint play items for beginners are wrist cuffs, a ball gag, bed restraints, thigh cuffs, a hogtie and a spreader bar,” Viereck told XBIZ. “Retailers should focus on the item’s comfort and quick release, as the two most common questions a customer has when considering using a bondage item for the first time are ‘does it hurt?’ and ‘can I get out of it if I don’t like it?’ Someone who is experienced with BDSM will include control, domination, submission and discipline in their play.”

Viereck continued, “The key that distinguishes BDSM from abuse is the simple but fundamental issue of consent. Having something done to you that you do not want or choose is abuse; having something done to you that you willfully choose, that gives you pleasure — even if it’s something that would be abusive to someone else — is nothing more than sexual preference. One person’s horror really can be another person’s ecstasy.”

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