trends

Distributors Discuss Upcoming Retail Trends

Distributors Discuss Upcoming Retail Trends
Genie Davis

Ringing in the New Year with stellar sales is every distributor’s holiday wish. With that in mind, distributors are keeping an eye out for product categories that are rising in popularity. With “Fifty Shades Freed” hitting movie screens, distributors are stocking up on BDSM goods while looking to the future for coming trends.

At Holiday Products, senior account manager and product specialist Molly Romeo says she sees popularity continuing to grow in the category of oral sex simulators.

The proven success of products like Womanizer, Satisfyer and now Sona, means more manufacturers will jump into the ring with their own version.

“The proven success of products like Womanizer, Satisfyer and now Sona, means more manufacturers will jump into the ring with their own version, Romeo said. “Hopefully, all this competition means the technology will continue to just get better and better.”

Glenn LeBoeuf, director of operations for Nalpac, agrees that clitoral stimulators will continue to grow in popularity in 2018.

“The Womanizer technology has spearheaded this increase as this technology is now responsible for many smiling faces. High-end, powerful bullets should be a staple in any store as their popularity has also been on the upswing,” he adds. “We’re also experiencing an increase in more ‘extreme’ toys; whether it’s tails, sounds or Fist It, there seems to be a trend toward pushing the envelope. We’ve also seen a lot of growth in the CBD market.”

Romeo echoes the sentiment, saying that more consumers are seeing the benefits of combining sex and cannabis.

In 2018, Romeo predicts, “Oral simulators will continue to be popular, and am hoping for a wild and unique new style that will set the marketplace on fire. I see CBD-based products gaining in popularity, just because when you feel good and are pain-free you are more willing to enjoy life, and that includes sex.”

When it comes to “Fifty Shades Freed,” Romeo said she is anticipating the release will once again bring in new customers.

“Last time, we experienced a spike before the movie was released, then it died down after Valentine’s Day,” she said. “I predict this year will be no different.”

According to Romeo, “rechargeable everything” was the biggest trend in adult retail in 2017, and technology is slated to continue to improve.

“It seems like just about every new toy contains a rechargeable motor, and as technology continues to improve and production costs go down, the price points are now very market-friendly,” she said.

Fetish toys continue to thrive as Romeo reports an increase in customer requests for nipple toys.

“I currently direct them to suction devices, to dual-pronged vibes, or even to a massager with a scoop tip,” she said. “Hopefully, a manufacturer will come out with a line of items designed to target that market segment.”

Lynda Mort, vice president of sales and marketing for East Coast News, says that where she sees the most growth is with pleasure products that break the “sex toy” stigma.

“Sexual wellness and education are a burgeoning sector of the industry,” she said. “Products that are more mainstream-looking, not overly phallic, and great for couples are all poised for major growth. There will always be a huge market for the dildos, fetish/BDSM products, and the like, but we see items geared towards sexual wellness as making a huge jump.”

Mainstream exposure, such as the pending release of the “Fifty Shades Freed” movie always serves as a bump for adult retail. Nevertheless, Mort says not to expect a major sales rush.

“Any time a certain type of product makes it to the movies or mainstream media in a positive way, there is always a spike in sales,” she said. “However, it will never be as big as the original ‘Fifty Shades’ movie.”

Another 2017 adult retail trend that will continue in the New Year is a push into the mainstream for adult products.

“With events like the Sex Expo, TV shows such as ‘Ray Donovan’ and ‘Little Women LA,’ movies like ‘Fifty Shades’ and ‘Girls Night Out,’ and publications such as Elle, Cosmo and Forbes highlighting the industry, slowly but surely the industry is garnering mainstream attention.”

LeBoeuf is anticipating an increase in the sales of BDSM products with the “Fifty Shades Freed” release, and believes the Valentine’s Day timing will create substantial demand.

Overall, for the New Year, Nalpac is planning to focus on helping retail clientele turn inventory in their stores.

“We’ll be partnering with many of our suppliers to facilitate this,” LeBoeuf says, “I think retailers are going to continue to support the manufacturers and distributors that strive to support them.”

At Eldorado Trading, Allison Travers, director of marketing and communications also saw the emerging popularity of The Womanizer, Satisfyer and other similar products in 2017.

“We expect their popularity to continue growing into 2018,” she said. “Since the explosion of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ fetish and bondage items have done consistently well and continue to grow. The anal category has seen steady growth as well. Many manufacturers have added anal products or entire anal lines to their offerings. Meanwhile, virtual reality products have the potential to grow, but the market is still in the early stages while the products need refinement.”

While Travers does not see the upcoming release of “Fifty Shades Freed” as having an effect on BDSM product sales, the “Fifty Shades” series has boosted sales of the category overall.

“When the books first became popular, we couldn’t keep Ben-Wa balls and BDSM products on the shelves,” Travers reports. “The market has been so steady since then and at this point, the movies haven’t had much effect on BDSM product sales.”

According to Travers, “In the new year, Eldorado will continue to put emphasis on great relationships with our vendor and retail partners through our marketing, sales and purchasing efforts.”

Travers said Eldoraldo’s initiatives are to continue offering customers educational opportunities and support through the company’s e-learning series Elevate U.

“The purchasing department’s goal is to find the most unique and innovative products to bring to our customers,” she said. “The sales department will prioritize face-to-face customer engagement through in-store visits, event support, merchandising and education.”

A current growing trend is sex education, Travers said.

“On the business side, we saw retailers shift their focus to staff education to improve the customer experience,” she said. “Retailers embraced our Elevate U e-learning program to better educate themselves on sexual health, taking a more consultative approach to customer interactions. Retailers continue to move away from the video arcade model to a model that focuses on a sex-positive retail shopping experience.”

For 2018, Travers sees the adult retail shopping experience continuing to evolve and become more accepted.

“As stores cater to a more cooperative shopping experience, customers will find accessible display testers allowing them to see, touch and feel merchandise before buying,” Travers said. “Training sales associates who are prepared to consult with customers regarding their goals and preferences will help them to find the right products and additional accessories, while building customer satisfaction and loyalty.”

When it comes to customer service and retail support, Travers says “Eldorado will refocus on direct customer contact through personal visits from the sales team, merchandising assistance, event support and education to help our customers differentiate themselves from online retailers.” She adds, “The Elevate U e-learning program will further evolve to better serve retailers and continue to provide relevant and accurate sexual health information.”

Eldorado will also continue to offer value-added services such as same-day shipping, experienced and educated sales staff, unique product selection, education and e-commerce solutions, Travers reports.

Scott Dantis, director of sales and marketing for Williams Trading Company, says he predicts that the sex machine product category will continue to grow as price points are compressing within the category.

“We see more brands entering into the assortment of sex machines including Doc Johnson, Pipedream and Jimmyjane. We also support this category with a five-star consumer-rated F-Machine, Gigolo and F-Slider.”

Dantis says that he believes that retailers are devoting more space to this category to focus on a larger ticket sale, and offer consumers a unique experience.

“We recently announced a display program with a motion sensor to assist our retailers with the F-Machine Gigolo brand,” he said.

Dantis says that Williams Trading Co. will continue to support vendor relationships in the coming year with innovative marketing, and focus on technology to assist with customer sales growth.

“We will continue to collaborate with our vendors, focusing on our supply chain and data sell-through analytics to make purchasing decisions for new items,” he said.

Williams Trading Co. also plans to continue growing with both existing and new vendors.

“A recent newcomer, Dame products, with the new Eva and Fin are a direct example of a non-adult company moving into this space with a very successful product based on consumer research,” Dantis said.

A concerning current trend for Dantis is more manufacturers moving to Amazon marketplace and selling directly to consumers.

“Several branded manufacturers have brand market place stores in place today,” he said. “This move to sell direct to the consumer creates more pressure on the brick and mortar dealer from a pricing and margin perspective within the adult channel.”

This is due to the fact that Amazon is an open marketplace, and does not maintain MAP pricing, eroding the profitability of adult items due to price algorithm changes from Amazon. Another trend he’s observed is of brands making a move to a minimum advertised pricing policy online.

“Instituting a MAP policy is a positive strategy to maintain profitability within a respective product line, although what we see is that several brands are not unilaterally enforcing the MAP policy with all distributors,” he explains. “Williams Trading Co.’s policy is to 100 percent maintain all MAP pricing per our vendors policy, and we have an established procedure in place, to track and cancel offending MAP violators.”

And in the New Year, Dantis says Williams Trading’s primary focus will continue to be on service excellence to their customer base.

“We invested heavily into a new web ordering platform offering the Smart Sex Toy Finder feature with predictive search,” he relates.

The launch of the new predictive smart search-capable wholesale ordering site puts the company in the technological forefront, streamlines the search process for new items, as well as new order placement, and submits recommendations based on recent purchases and search behavior for customers.

“One of the biggest frustrations for store owners is the ability to quickly search and find items for inventory replenishment,” he says. “We are also expanding our WTU Learning platform with a collaborative relationship with Pipedream and Sex Ed with Sunny.

Our customers can expect that Williams Trading Co. will lead with technology along with our mission statement of service excellence and customer service within the industry.”

All in all, distributors appear to be looking at a successful and innovative year ahead.

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