In 2016, it was evident that the pleasure products sector of the adult industry was thriving when Forbes Magazine quoted CalExotics President Susan Colvin as saying that it now “stands as a $15 billion market segment, with projections that it will surpass $50 billion by 2020.” From “Fifty Shades of Grey” to “Sex and the City,” pleasure products have become increasingly mainstream in recent years — and as the adult industry enters 2017, the pleasure products sector can look forward to additional mainstream exposure, extensive social media and mobile promotions and the release of the “Fifty Shades Darker” movie.
Frederic Walme, CEO of Fun Factory, is bullish about the effect the “Fifty Shades Darker” film will have on pleasure product sales when it comes out in February.
We do expect a renewed enthusiasm for kink toys since so many people have found something in the series that sparks their interest. —Frederic Walme, Fun Factory
“We do expect a renewed enthusiasm for kink toys since so many people have found something in the series that sparks their interest,” Walme told XBIZ. “In line with Fun Factory’s mission to design toys for every sexual preference and orientation, we have added some new SKUs to our line that should resonate with consumers who are excited about ‘Fifty Shades Darker.’ More than that, though, we anticipate that the film’s release will prompt a surge of interest in toys in general, as the release of the books and previous movie did, and that the industry will grow as a whole.”
Zabrina Law, trade marketing manager for LELO, predicted that the “Fifty Shades Darker” film will do well but said it remains to be seen how much it will actually boost pleasure product sales.
“The movie will be hugely successful — how can it not be? — but it will likely draw fewer new viewers than the previous one and fewer still than the books,” Law told XBIZ. “The initial response was unbelievable, and we really felt the effect. We saw a massive 400 percent increase in sales of our Luna Beads thanks to the success of the books. The industry can expect a general run-off uplift in BDSM sales, but probably not like those mountainous peaks we saw in previous years. But we will certainly see more and more people begin to experiment with bondage as a result.”
Robert Rheaume, president of Jimmyjane and Sir Richard’s Condoms, told XBIZ, “With the first release of the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ movie, we saw a lot of attention on the category from outside industries, including media, fashion and creatives. I think that again, we are expecting people to explore the phenomenon and thus, explore different areas of sexuality. I think we will see more attention to bondage items, but also, more mainstream attention on the industry as a whole. From what we have seen thus far, the anticipation for the sequel doesn’t seem to have as much potency as with the first release.”
One pleasure products manufacturer that has fared especially well with the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon has been the U.K.-based Lovehoney, whose line Fifty Shades Darker: The Official Pleasure Collection was approved by “Fifty Shades” author E.L. James herself. Asked if she thought the “Fifty Shades Darker” film would inspire sales of BDSM toys to grow, Lovehoney’s international sales manager manager Kate Hodgson-Egan told XBIZ, “Absolutely! The Fifty Shades Darker Deliciously Deep Steel G-Spot Wand is flying off the shelves.” And when Sabrina Earnshaw, U.K. sales manager for Lovehoney, was asked the same question, she told XBIZ, “Yes! And especially, the items used in cult scenes of ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ such as masquerade masks, ben wa balls and nipple clamps.”
Reflecting on the impact the “Fifty Shades Darker” film could have on the pleasure products sector in 2017, Nasstoys’ sales and marketing director, Kathryn Hartman, told XBIZ, “I would be pleasantly surprised to see the public response match that of the banner year we experienced in response to the initial release of the books. If the movie is a hit and if it strikes a nerve with the adult merchandise-buying consumers and stimulates them in the direction of S/M (and) B/D items, retail sales will benefit and public interest will escalate.”
Social media, from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram, has been a strong promotional tool for pleasure products — and companies that used social media aggressively in 2016 are likely to continue doing so in 2017.
Joanne Queenin, marketing liaison for Sportsheets International, told XBIZ, “We are really creating a larger buzz around our social media outreach. It’s working amazingly well for us. A lot of consumers know our products but didn’t realize who we were, that we are the manufacturer. It’s been a fun journey connecting with the consumer to support our customers at all levels. We are launching a new and exciting, diverse campaign with new advertising, brands and products. Stay tuned.”
Andy Green, founder and president of Xgen Products, stressed that social media and mobile technology will be important promotional tools in the New Year.
“In 2017,” Green told XBIZ, “we will make social media a priority. The mobile world is quickly becoming the dominant way to drive traffic and to educate people about our various product lines.”
Green said that Xgen looks forward to working with Frederick’s of Hollywood in 2017. The Xgen CEO explained, “We have a very exciting new license that we will debut at ANME: we have the exclusive rights to manufacture Frederick’s of Hollywood Toys. The very first time the public will see and know about this will be ANME.”
Law said that LELO will be thinking globally in 2017 and doing everything possible to increase its exposure around the world.”
“We’re going to continue to do what really works for us: bold marketing partnerships and PR activity,” Law noted. “LELO is growing very fast, and we’re channeling that into producing highly localized campaigns and marketing materials all over the world. This is a great way to reach markets not necessarily open to other brands — we recently partnered with Carrefour in Kuwait, for example — and this will continue to be a big part of our strategy for reaching new customers.”