"We estimate there are 25,000 websites selling toys on the net," Al Bloom, director of marketing for California Exotic Novelties, told XBiz.
Casual surfing on the Internet will render at least some aspect of Cal Exotics on practically every porn site, Bloom said. Surfers also will find a healthy sampling of toys and gadgetry from a slim handful of other major manufacturers, with Doc Johnson, Topco Sales and Nass Toys leading the pack.
"What has changed is the development of a new online marketplace where individuals can go and purchase a product without having to walk into an adult store," a spokesman for Doc Johnson said. "This new marketplace provides a shopping experience that is discrete and comfortable for a person who may be new to the adult market."
Vibrator Mania Online
In the first season of HBO's award-winning series "Sex and the City," the character of Charlotte developed an erotic obsession with her Rabbit Pearl vibrator. After the airing of the episodes dealing with Charlotte's vibrator mania, online sales of the Rabbit Pearl skyrocketed, with many net vendors unable to keep up with the sudden rush of orders for the product produced and distributed by Doc Johnson.
"'Sex and the City' certainly does not shy away from sex toys of any kind," wrote Trisha Hurlburt, columnist for MyPleasure.com, a San Francisco-based online toy retailer that targets female buyers. "Over the past few years on the show, we've seen a plethora of interesting toys, including the Love Swing, a strap-on dildo, a whip and even fake nipples. Nor does 'Sex and the City' consider any topic taboo: we've seen female ejaculation, hot lesbian sex and a gentleman into water sports."
This frank dialogue only helps to feed the coffers of retailers and manufacturers, but the market is getting tight.
"The online toy business has become more and more competitive each year," Dave Levine, president of Sextoy.com, said. "I would hate to start from scratch in today's competitive environment."
Bloom of Cal Exotics concurs with Levine's assessment.
"To try and break in now is almost impossible, unless you have a 'niche' item that is totally different than anything else out there, and even then, it would be a tough sell."
Industry giant Topco Sales, founded in 1973 during the "Golden Age" of adult films, has survived over the changing decades by applying just such an emphasis. "Topco has maintained a competitive edge by consistently developing new products and utilizing the latest and hottest technologies," a Topco spokeswoman said. "We try to make products that are consumer-friendly as well as cutting edge in both product and package design."
Two of Topco's most notable scientific breakthroughs have been the creation of ACoperated vibrators and the trademarked Cyberskin material.
"Cyberskin is different from all the other materials on the market today," the company said. "With the creation of Cyberskin, it is now possible to make products with an extremely realistic feel like that of the human body. Cyberskin has two unique properties, the material is super-flexible with a high resiliency — it can recover to its original shape, and this revolutionary material can simulate in the same product the softness of skin and the rigidity of erectile tissue. It has benefited Topco because our products made with Cyberskin are consistently best sellers."
In 2004 Topco tapped into the black couples market with their Urban Vibes toy line, featuring signature lines from Vanessa Blue and Lexington Steele. Vanessa Blue's offerings, made from Cyberskin, include Blue's Beaver, a pocket pussy, and Blue's Booty, a mold of some of her body parts.
Brand loyalty and the licensing of a well-known adult stars name or image in association with an adult product is one way to stay lively in the competitive market. If you believe the age-old adage that "sex sells," Bloom told XBiz, then you will have an easy time understanding why a beautiful woman on a package draws consumers to it.
"Obviously the prettiest stars always draw a bigger crowd," Bloom said. "They garner more viewers for their movies, people clamor to see them dance at the gentlemen's clubs and, as expected, they draw people to the products they endorse."
Bloom's experience has taught him that the bulk of novelties are purchased by men for women and that the women who buy for themselves "want to somehow associate the toy with a successful — and obviously sexually satisfied — woman that they may have seen on different packaging. The images are of smiling, sexually inviting women and men contorted in a manner that gushes with sexuality — the very sexuality that people want in their bedrooms."
Cal Exotic's exclusive Gina Lynn Collection consists of 32 separate and distinct signature products, which include Futurotic Vibes, Vibrating Pleasure Probes and Futurotic Vibro Eggs and Rings, not to mention a genuine cast of her vagina.
"Preliminary sales records indicate that the entire Gina Lynn Collection is in a position to set sales records," Bloom said.
In part two we'll look at celebrity endorsements and the evolving toy market.