Distributors play an important role in the pleasure products sector, helping to get the products from manufacturers to retailers and ultimately, to consumers. Ideally, the path from manufacturers to distributors to retailers to consumers should be as smooth as possible — and when distributors do as much as they can to promote sexual wellness and sex education, it can be a win-win situation for all parties concerned.
Morgan Panzino, wholesale supervisor for SexToyDistributing.com, stressed that educated, knowledgeable retailers are more likely to gain the trust of consumers and therefore, increase sales.
An adult retailer can’t effectively merchandise, demonstrate and sell a product if they are not perceived as experts in their field.
“Staff who are properly trained in all facets of sex education, from anatomy to sexual orientation, can form stronger, more trusting relationships with their customers — which, in turn, promotes repeat purchases,” Panzino told XBIZ. “End users want to feel like the people helping them are knowledgeable and not just selling something to sell it. The more you know, the better — and you’ll be better able to sell a product while catering to shoppers’ various needs and interests. Customer loyalty is king. Sex education training also helps the brands that stores stock.”
Panzino continued, “I used to work in retail, and everyone I knew wanted to know more and more information. We would read XBIZ and any other information we could get our hands on. When manufacturers hosted classes for the staff to show us how to use and sell their products, we would have a great turnaround for their products. We liked knowing about the organic or rechargeable products, how they worked, and why they were better for our customers. At SexToyDistributing.com, we have a knowledgeable staff who are able to answer questions regarding new products as well as point customers toward trending items.”
Molly Romeo, senior account manager and product specialist for Holiday Products, asserted that the more distributors help to educate retailers, the better it is for consumers of pleasure products.
“Retail shoppers who take the time to stop in to the local romance boutique are often more comfortable speaking with a store employee than they are to a doctor about any intimate issues they may be having in the bedroom or with their bodies,” Romeo told XBIZ. “Knowing your stuff is always good for business, and that’s especially true in brick-and-mortar retail. If your customers feel they can trust you — and if you’re able to help them improve their lives in any way — you’ve gained a loyal patron who will not only visit your establishment again, but will tell their friends to as well.”
Romeo added, “Sex education is always lacking among consumers — not as much in the past, but there is still a ton of bad information floating around out there. The epidemic of people treating porn as a source of how-to and education is, sadly, still happening — and sex educators have to counteract.”
Catherine Korfel, representative for Eldorado Trading Company, cited the Elevate U program as an example of its efforts to educate retailers.
“Elevate U is Eldorado’s option for retailers for sexual wellness education,” Korfel told XBIZ. “Elevate U was created in partnership with the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health and is a 16-lesson online certification series developed to equip stores with the sexual health information to better serve their customers when they’re buying pleasure-focused products.”
Korfel continued, “Since launching Elevate U in January of this year, the feedback and response we’ve received from customers has been overwhelmingly positive. So far, we have close to 800 learners enrolled in the program. Based on that, we can tell that retailers are very receptive to sexual health training since they have seen a trend of customers asking more and more sexual health-related questions. If customers come in with questions, they want to be able to accurately and confidently answer their questions and know that if they give them a great in-store experience, they can gain a repeat customer. What retailers are interested in are the topics that their customers frequently ask them, such as anal best practices or how to get started with BDSM.”
Williams Trading Co., another prominent distributor of pleasure products, has its own educational program for retailers: Williams Trading University (WTU). And Erin Viereck, the New Jersey-based company’s vendor and marketing liaison, asserted that interest in sexual wellness and sex education continues to grow.
“Williams Trading University is the adult industry’s award-winning resource available to every adult retail professional,” Viereck told XBIZ. “The more you know about adult products and how they benefit everyone, the more you know about sexual health and wellness. Online courses are available 24 hours/seven days per week, accessed with a simple login account.”
Viereck continued, “An adult retailer can’t effectively merchandise, demonstrate and sell a product if they are not perceived as experts in their field. An educated adult retailer answers their customers’ questions, qualms their fears, satisfies their curiosity and makes them feel empowered for taking charge of their sexuality and improving their overall happiness.”
In-store events, Viereck noted, are one way for brick-and-mortar retailers to educate their customers.
“If a retailer is interested in hosting an in-store event with a sexual health and wellness theme, products made for men concerned about prostate health and erectile dysfunction are in high demand,” Viereck explained. “For women, products offering reproductive illness support, pelvic health and overall body care items are often inquired about.”
Viereck added, “Adult sex education and the adult industry have begun to merge into mainstream. Retailers used to cater to a very targeted group of fetish and fantasy customers; now, we see doctors, therapists, and other medical groups utilizing the adult boutiques in their area to help with their patients. If a retailer is able to embrace this merger, they can reach a larger demographic. Retailers have a huge opportunity to help educate their customers when they integrate adult sex education in their selling. Manufacturing adult products is a 15 billion-dollar industry and growing, with an average of 22,000 products circulating on adult store shelves. In recent years, terms like ‘health and wellness’ and ‘all-natural ingredients’ have been used more and more in connection with sex toys. Sexual wellness is increasingly recognized as an important part of a person’s overall health — and that is absolutely reflected in the sex toy market.”