With the New Year barreling down upon us, retailers already are anticipating product categories to grow, and what both vendors and consumers can expect in the coming year. Promotions for 2017 and the release of “Fifty Shades Darker” are also on the table as we enter the New Year.
Victor Tobar, national buying and merchandising manager for The Pleasure Chest, offers his opinion on the year ahead.
Every year, we work harder on our guests’ overall experience while shopping with us and they can definitely expect to see an elevated level of service. —Megan Swartz, Deja Vu Love Boutique
In regard to product category growth, Tobar said, “I think BDSM, especially introductory BDSM items will see an uptick in the coming year. Couples-friendly vibrating toys are always growing, and the beginning of the year through Valentine’s Day is always a time for growth for that category. Also, items that incorporate new technology, like app-enabled toys and VR toys are gaining a lot of steam right now.”
In regard to the film “Fifty Shades Darker,” a surge in BDSM product sales seems likely, according to Tobar.
“‘Fifty Shades’ has brought BDSM to the mainstream in a pretty magnificent way, and with every new release, we see a new rise in interest in kink, sensation and power play. I predict that some light bondage items like handcuffs and rope will see an increase in sales, as well as introductory impact play items like floggers and paddles,” Tobar says. “We’re excited to welcome customers into the world of BDSM, and to get them set up to have hot, safe, kinky fun.”
As to what vendors and consumers can expect from The Pleasure Chest in 2017, one major project is the launch of their new website in early 2017. “We’re looking forward to growing our web presence and really delivering the curated, sex-positive and inclusive Pleasure Chest experience to all of our visitors online,” said Sarah Tomchesson, The Pleasure Chest’s head of business operations. “Besides that, you can expect us to continue pushing the envelope in terms of our free weekly workshop program, as we work to expand the topics we present, and create a more engaging and celebratory experience for all participants. We’re also always working on expanding our product selection, and making sure we have something new and innovative for everybody.”
This year, The Pleasure Chest has noticed an evolution in adult store shopping, with many customers doing their homework before coming into the stores, armed with questions based on product information viewed online, or toys noted in the media.
“The readiness of information online makes for a savvier shopper,” Tobar says. “And we love getting customers in our stores who have come to us through the Internet, and are looking for more personalized guidance and shopping assistance. Our product selection has grown a lot in the past year to meet our customers’ needs. We’ve definitely expanded our BDSM offerings, kink-inspired apparel and accessories, and brought on a more diverse range of silicone items at different price points. I think all of these developments in adult shopping will continue into 2017.”
To promote The Pleasure Chest to new consumers in the New Year, Tomchesson says the store’s 45-year commitment to a wide range of communities will continue through active outreach and education.
“As we expand our online presence, we hope to be able to connect with a whole new audience of shoppers and sex-positive people worldwide. We like to think of The Pleasure Chest as a destination for everybody, and that means we’re tasked with keeping our products and educational offerings and events as open, diverse and inclusive as possible. You’ll also continue to see us represented at numerous conferences and industry events throughout the year.”
At the Deja Vu Love Boutique, manager Megan Swartz believes product categories such as smoke and vape sections will expand, as they did for Deja Vu in 2016.
She has mixed expectations for the release of “Fifty Shades Darker” and its effect on the popularity of BDSM products.
“When the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ books came out, we saw an enormous boost in sales in that category, which hadn’t been that popular in our stores prior to that. When the movie came out, we were expecting another big jump, and we saw little to no increase. Of course we still hope to see a spike in sales with the release of ‘Fifty Shades Darker.’”
Swartz predicts what vendors and consumers can expect in the New Year is an elevated level of service at Deja Vu. “Every year, we work harder on our guests’ overall experience while shopping with us and they can definitely expect to see an elevated level of service. We are also looking to work more closely with vendors during holidays such as Black Friday, to offer extreme deals and door busters like you see with mainstream retailers.”
As to the evolution of shopping at an adult store, Swartz notes, “more and more people are on board with offering VIP service to guests. It seems as if we spend less and less time breaking the ice, and more time helping to focus on exactly what the customers are looking for. We used to play a guessing game of sorts with our guests to find out what they are into or not into. We find that more often than not lately our guests are open to telling us exactly what they are looking for. I would expect to see more of that in 2017.”
To promote Deja Vu in 2017, Swartz says a grassroots approach will continue for the store as well as other approaches.
“We like to hit the streets and hand out passes, on Fremont Street or any place on Las Vegas Boulevard that will have us, really. We will also continue to participate in local opportunities to meet new customers such as wedding conventions, tattoo conventions and things of that nature.”
In Oakland, Calif., at Feelmore 510, owner Nenna Joiner predicts the growth of designer vibes, led in the past by Lelo.
“This category evolved the most for Feelmore,” Joiner said. “Another category I believe has growth is what I would call ‘Miscellaneous,’ which could have anything from locally-sourced artisans to coloring books. This category would benefit smaller boutiques.”
Joiner doesn’t expect consumer demand to grow as much as it did with when the original “Fifty Shades of Grey” came out, but predicts some growth from “Fifty Shades Darker.”
“Products have stayed on the market since the first film. There was a true rush to buy the products during the first film release,” she notes. With the new film, products may find new fans but “the old fans may not be ready to buy products that look similar to what they previously purchased.”
In the New Year, Joiner says vendors can expect her company to “get better at paying bills on time. You always talk about the great things vendors can expect, but the not so great things are also a part of business...you have to tell the entire story,” she explains. “As a smaller store in an economically depressed area of Oakland, I have had difficult times.” Recent events including the recent Ghost Ship warehouse fire, police shootings, and political protests prove challenging for Feelmore, but doable to overcome. “It’s a part of our landscape, yet we wouldn’t give back the opportunity to be here. Consumers can expect us to increase our fill-rate on orders to 80 percent. We do our best to listen to the customer, and get them their ideal product,” she says. “We keep grinding and pressing toward the highest mark.”
Joiner sees a changing adult store dynamic overall. “Especially in areas that are overshadowed by cannabis regulations — I believe as the country continues to take a more liberal stance on legalizing marijuana, adult stores may have an easier time opening.” And within the store for 2017? “Coloring books should be a continued growth trend. Last year was a great year for Miscellaneous category items.”
As far as promotion goes, according to Joiner, Feelmore is working on a pop-up strategy to get her brand out in a novel way. “It’s going to take a great effort, but I will trust my heart that it will be a success. My heart hasn’t failed me yet,” she enthuses.
Manager and buyer Holly Berejikian and retail owner Charles T. Craton, at Sexy Suz Couples Boutique, Sexy Suz Adult Emporium, and Entice Couples Boutique, serve up their 2017 predictions. According to Berejikian, male toys will continue to grow. “Specifically prostate, plug-in toys, and strap-ons for pegging. Those will all grow.” As to shrinking categories, she notes, “The days of overpriced toys are gone. In Athens, Ga., not many customers care about ‘luxury toys.’ They’re looking for quality and durability.”
She doesn’t have huge expectations for BDSM product growth from the upcoming “Fifty Shades Darker.”
“The last movie did not generate any extra interest at our store. I don’t think this one will, either.”
Over all, vendors and consumers can expect Sexy Suz and Entice to offer more educational seminars and in-store events, such as art shows and craft shows.
Store trends she has seen in 2016 and expects to see continue include the current influx of customers, many female, over the age of 50 and 60. “I think older customers will continue to shop in the store. Also, the quality of adult toys is getting better and customers are getting used to warranties. I think this will grow in the coming years.” As far as promotion for the New Year, she believes stores will continue using techniques such as “email blasts, advertisements in local magazines and coupon books, and hosting in-store events.”
All told, it should be a happy new year for retailers in 2017.