We all know that adult retail is changing. Every year, it’s been harder to get customers in the door than the year before. In 2021, a new trend is emerging, and retailers are finding that employees are even harder to get (and keep!) than customers.
The pandemic forced millions of workers around the world to re-evaluate their place in the labor market. Workers are leaving stable jobs in record numbers, and not just for better pay. Workers are paying more attention than ever to hourly commitments, to positive work environments — and if a job can be done remotely, they don’t want to leave home to do it.
The adult industry is wide and multifaceted, calling for employees that possess a wide range of skills.
Hospitality and customer service fields have been among the hardest hit in this trend. In the adult biz, customer service workers are often expected to maintain expertise in a wide range of fields, often without any additional in-house training (or additional pay). Consequently, some of your employees might be reconsidering their positions — or you might be doing so yourself.
Passion for Pleasure
This is where I found myself in mid-2020: considering leaving a job I loved, and finding an opportunity to support my family without leaving home. I had spent six years in adult retail, and although it’s unlike any other job, it’s also very much a normal retail job. Between cleaning shelves and processing orders, resolving conflicts with unhappy customers, overfamiliar customers getting entirely too close and canceling plans to cover call-offs, retail takes a toll on its workers.
Like many adult retail workers, though, I cared deeply about what I was doing. Every interaction with a customer is a chance to improve that customer’s life, and to make the world a more pleasurable place to live; every new toy design is a change to revolutionize somebody’s sexual experience. Also, of course, working with dildos and vibrators is fun — who would want to leave?
Our industry, then, is facing two parallel questions: How do adult retail staff move from the sales floor to another branch of the adult industry? And, how do retailers make better use of their best employees to keep the most dedicated and effective staff on board?
Taking the Leap
The adult industry is wide and multifaceted, calling for employees that possess a wide range of skills. Successful adult retail workers often have diverse professional backgrounds, so don’t overlook these crucial skills when building a resume:
Sell Yourself: Do you obsessively learn every detail about a new product or collection, and feel a thrill from talking a customer into a higher-quality (and higher-price) product? Adult retail is full of good salespeople, and there are always openings for vendor- and distributor-level sales and brand representative positions. If your tongue is silver enough, find the right ear and talk your way into one.
Crafty and Creative: Do you create something from nothing — on canvas, in wood or clay, or digitally? You may be able to design pleasure products! Pleasure products succeed or fail based on practical design choices, and brands are always designing and redesigning their products. Plus, if you craft and sell items yourself in an online marketplace, that ecommerce experience is increasingly in-demand! Extremely Online: Do you spot the new trends on social media before the algorithm does? Look at marketing and digital brand manager positions. Adult businesses at every level need help navigating the labyrinth of social media’s algorithms and terms of services. The tech needs of adult businesses expand every day, and if you’ve done any work building websites, designing apps, or even call-center tech support, you could be invaluable to the right company.
What’s a Retailer to Do?
The best employers want their staff to learn and grow, but nobody wants to lose the staff they’ve invested time and money to train. Somebody always has to work the register, but retailers may consider new ways to utilize more of the skills their staff members already have. Remember, your staff wants to keep selling sex. Give them more ways to do that:
Feed the Brains: If you don’t already, offer product and industry training programs. Not only will they improve your bottom line (because a more informed seller is a more profitable seller!) but they’ll also increase staff engagement. Workers feel more deeply rooted within a business when the business makes an effort to educate them.
Rattle the Bones: Get your frontline workers — the people who listen to the customers, who stock the products, who deal with returns — regularly involved with product selection, operational policies, and local marketing/ engagement. Sometimes, the careful organizational planning you’ve done to manage your business can be its greatest hindrance. If you’ve got department heads asking middle managers to ask other middle managers to ask retail staff for suggestions and feedback — shake it up!
Use the Hands: How are your teams spending their time, and what other needs in your business could they be meeting? Can your sales team members pull duty answering customer questions on your web store’s customer chat? Can stocking team members meet with your buyers to optimize the packaging that comes into your store? Can your social-media addicted part-timers spend a shift exploring the barrage of “the hot new vibrators you have to try!” options that blew up the feeds during the week?
Whether dodging protesters outside the store, fighting court cases and zoning boards, or dancing between the restrictions we face in advertising, the adult industry always finds ways to adapt to face the challenges of the day. Now, workers are searching for their own ways to evolve and grow in a changing landscape.
If workers and businesses alike continue creatively exploring ways to utilize one another’s strengths, we can use this moment as an opportunity to keep making profits, selling sex, and having fun — together.
Chris Fleiger, formerly a Lion’s Den store manager, recently joined operations at Passionate Playground (makers of Joyboxx).