After a year of adjusting to life in a pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on how far we’ve come. Prior to the pandemic, it was business as usual with companies sticking to their usual routines, and retailers buying from their favorite brands. The pandemic caused a lot of disruptions, however it also opened up a lot of opportunities for brands to make an impression on retailers.
I don’t think anyone was prepared for what was to come, and there was definitely a period of panic as everything started shutting down. Besides dealing with unexpected toilet paper shortages, there was widespread terror not just for our own individual health and that of our family and loved ones, but also for the health of our businesses. Adult stores were forced to shut down, as well as the many manufacturers that keep them stocked. Thankfully, these challenges proved to be a blessing in disguise.
While going back to “normal” life and business still seems like a stretch even to this day, our industry of forward-thinking business pros have found new ways to forge ahead and keep up with the unexpected increase in demand for pleasure products. No manufacturer could have prepared for the challenges that the pandemic would create — and still continue to this day. Manufacturers are still catching up on fulfilling orders, and thanks to this unexpected “break” from the norm, staying home and maintaining social distancing actually brought the industry closer together.
As someone who has always made it my mission in the biz to establish and maintain relationships with as many people as possible, whether they did business with us or not, the pandemic proved to be the perfect introduction to many others. With everyone at home and reaching out for not just business but simply connection and support during these unprecedented times, the pandemic made it possible for more ideas to flow, which ultimately ended up helping our industry grow.
Thanks to our tight-knit community of friendly industry colleagues, not only is it easy to maintain relationships but also we have each other’s backs. Through Facebook Groups that have been established since the start of the pandemic, retailers are now more vocal about their needs and are making recommendations that are giving small brands the opportunity to shine.
There are stores that are reaching out to me now that have never shown any interest before. We often hear about how the pleasure products industry in general is succeeding in this complicated time, however I feel the pandemic has been especially a blessing for small companies that have to fight for their spot on retailers’ store shelves. We have to work harder to stand out and be seen as being just as effective as a manufacturer with much more resources. The pandemic has opened up the communication channels and made it possible for more fruitful connections to become established, and thus bring more of our products in-store.
What the pandemic has taught me is that smaller brands can absolutely have the same impact as a major brand. Throughout this past year, we’ve landed new customers that previously hadn’t done business with us, finally allowing us mid-size companies to introduce our items to their shoppers. Many other small companies have shared similar experiences with me. We’re finally being seen and proving ourselves as a valuable contributor to the industry. We hope that by being able to supply retailers during this trying time, they now see us as being just as reliable as a major manufacturer.
The pandemic allowed us the opportunity to pay attention to feedback — and allowed retailers to make their needs known more openly. Without our usual in-person communication, everyone in the biz is more active than ever on social media. Drastic times call for drastic measures, and the pleasure products industry got the call! If you’re a part of the biz and aren’t on social media, then you’re missing out! Social media — particularly Facebook, has become a hub for the who’s who of the pleasure products biz.
I think what the pandemic is teaching retailers in particular is that it’s important to carry a diverse selection of brands and to keep an open mind when it comes to smaller manufacturers. And for us boutique brands, our ears are now more open than ever, listening to the needs of retailers.
We don’t know how long the pandemic is going to continue, but meanwhile small companies will continue to bask in the increased exposure of the pleasure biz, and more importantly will continue to bolster these newfound relationships that the pandemic has inspired. My hope is that this industry closeness prevails and that we continue to find new opportunities to support one another.