In a country driven by progress, upward mobility and capitalism, we often forget what success truly looks like and means. We prioritize profit over people, and in doing so cannot maintain employees and staff. No wonder that, in what was called the Great Resignation, over 38 million individuals quit their jobs in 2021. Changing that culture is a daunting task, but we can start by looking closer to home.
The adult retail market is expected to grow to a $52.7 billion industry by 2026, but whom are we allowing to share in the success and financial rewards of this growth? We may win awards for our businesses and leadership, but none of that would be remotely possible without the countless staff and employees who put in incalculable amounts of time and effort to make and sell the products we profit from. They deserve to be invested in. That means investigating our internal structures and practices to ensure that we are truly progressive from top to bottom, with an essential focus on the foundations of our success and especially our employees, without whom we would not be the industry we are today.
Adult retail and sexual wellness is a multibillion-dollar industry, so there is no excuse for employees to be living paycheck to paycheck without benefits, support and possibility for growth. Most of the wealth is sitting at the top while those who are the backbone of this industry — sales staff and reps, production teams and stock associates — have to settle for a store discount, pizza party, or free product every so often. We can do better, by implementing an industry standard minimum wage that represents appropriate compensation for workers’ talents and skills and offering significant benefits like health insurance, gym memberships, professional development programs, staff retreats, and even assisted continuing education programs. That’s how we create long-term investment and commitment among employees.
Professional development is key to a successful staff. Present resources for staff to expand their breadth of knowledge of this business and the field of sexuality. There is a wide array of free business programs available online through sites such as Coursera where staff can take courses from accredited institutions such as Harvard, Dartmouth and Wharton on retail essentials and business strategies. Don’t merely convey sales goals to staff — equip them with the knowledge to understand your business goals, how to achieve them and what the overall big picture is of the business. When people can comprehend and visualize the intricacies of why that $5 add-on lube is essential and key to our sales, there will be more drive and ambition to make those add-on sales and to achieve goals together. Invest in sexual health and wellness certifications for staff. Work with sexual health education centers and professionals such as Anne Hodder-Shipp and Everyone Deserves Sex Education to create a program that caters to the needs of your staff. By educating staff on the nuances and intricacies of business and pleasure, you create a safe space for your customers to come, explore and spend. The ROI is evident.
Benefits are essential for maintaining employees and reducing turnover. The average retail turnover is 60% which accrues over $19 billion in cost. To increase employee retention, I propose we not only improve our hiring practices and workplace culture, but also implement an adequate benefits program that delivers true value, such as the distribution of company stock to employees. Show them the success of the business is just as much theirs as it is ours. Giving shares of the business to employees helps them become an integral part of the business and supplies drive and inspiration to succeed. Benefits should also include company-sponsored health insurance, paid vacation, sick and mental health days, student loan repayment assistance, and even parental leave and childcare support. Solid, inclusive and enticing benefits programs attract top talent while creating a sustainable and profitable workplace environment.
Employees are investing in us; we must invest in them. An industry-wide minimum wage should be implemented to guarantee the mass wage gap is diminished and that players across the board can work in this industry at a rate that allows them to live comfortably. The U.S. minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which is unacceptable as the cost of living and inflation have increased dramatically. A $20-per-hour minimum wage, plus commission and extra incentives, would ensure that individuals can not only survive in this industry, but thrive. As this industry grows and our companies get richer, we have a human, moral and practical obligation to share that wealth.
With higher pay, enhanced benefits programs, and professional development, we can tackle our high turnover rate, appropriately elevate our staff, and create safer spaces for our customers to shop, which in return will allow us to further benefit and profit. When we come together, we succeed together.