opinion

How to Recession-Proof Your Retail Business

How to Recession-Proof Your Retail Business

Recessions are more common than most people realize. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the U.S. has experienced 12 recessions since World War II. That’s an average of one every six years, so being prepared is always a good idea.

First, some good news for the pleasure products industry: Folks may be tightening their budgets and spending less on restaurants and entertainment, but that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to their sex lives. Just look at the mainstream landscape: Trojan now offers a condom that comes with a disposable vibrating ring. Durex sells a vibrator and a line of lubricants. Even Walmart, Walgreen and Target are selling products like condoms, lubricants and yes, even vibrators. Plus, online pleasure sales are booming as consumers who don't have to make a face-to-face purchase feel free to explore their kinks more openly. In addition to offering a more discreet shopping experience, online ordering is often less expensive and offers a wider array of products.

While sex toys may never be completely ‘recession-proof,’ like alcohol or tobacco, in times of economic strain people still tend to shop for things that bring them pleasure.

Generally, when the cost of living goes up, folks stay at home more and engage in free or inexpensive entertainment, which naturally includes sexual pleasure. Here are some tips for taking advantage of that phenomenon in order to help your business weather a recession.

Carry a Range of Price Points

Many customers see the value of investing in a product that’s built to last, but sometimes folks just don’t have the disposable income for big-ticket items, especially during an economic downturn. Yet you still want those folks to be able to shop at your store and buy the products they’re looking for, albeit without bells and whistles. By offering products at a range of prices, you can widen your demographic while catering to the unique needs of your customers. This ultimately creates a more inclusive shopping experience. Lower-priced items are also more likely to be impulse buys, so having those options available opens up more sales opportunities.

Create Multiple Revenue Streams

This can require some out-of-the-box thinking about how your particular business can gain new customers without making major new investments. For example, if you’re B2B only, consider selling directly to consumers — or vice versa if you’re B2C only. Extend your geographic footprint as well by selling online if you don't already, repurposing your manufacturing process for a new product, or renting out your store space for events. Get creative enough and who knows what opportunities may await?

Take Inventory of Your Inventory

Typically, the biggest cause of lack of cash flow in a product-based business is your inventory. If you haven’t been paying attention to what you’ve got tied up in inventory, now is the time to start tightening up. Take stock of any merchandise that has been sitting instead of selling, and mark those items down to clear them out. Even if you only make back the wholesale cost, cash in hand is better than a dusty product taking up space on your shelves. Save your focus and funds for the products that drive your business. 

Keep Up Marketing Efforts

When sales decline, marketing budgets can be the first thing to go, but this is one of the worst times to stop marketing, especially if your business is on the newer side and still striving to establish a customer base. While it can be scary to spend money when you see a dip in sales, I encourage you to wait before making any knee-jerk decisions. If the money you spend on marketing and advertising is bringing you a positive ROI, there is no reason why you should curtail it. If you do, you might see an even bigger dip in sales. If money is really tight and you absolutely need to scale back your advertising, try leaning into more collaborations. If you’re looking for creative marketing, other small businesses probably are too. Why not pool your resources and get in front of each other’s customers?

While sex toys may never be completely “recession-proof,” like alcohol or tobacco, in times of economic strain people still tend to shop for things that bring them pleasure. Planning ahead can help ensure that hard times don’t derail your business. Being prepared is always a good idea, and will keep you on track for success.

Known as the Queen of Wands, Carly S is a pleasure educator, author of the blog “Dildo or Dildon’t” and a self-described bad bitch from the Bronx. She recently launched Romantic Depot’s influencer program, is the buyer for Spectrum Boutique and runs social media for Nasstoys.

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