I’m consistently amazed at how our industry ebbs and flows in and out of the mainstream light. One day Jane Fonda is talking about the importance of having a vibrator in your 70s, and the next a retail customer is facing store closure issues from town ordinances trying to put them out of business. We celebrate with the recognition our industry deserves and gather forces to stand behind one of our own when they need it.
The constant learning model that goes on between manufacturers and retailers creates the perfect atmosphere in how to perceive someone’s statement or question like “What if I don’t like vibrators?” into a profitable shopping experience. Our retail force has been evolving their store assortments to appeal to customers who want vibes as well as those that don’t. Some retailers have embraced a steady and aggressive expansion into soft lines that include everyday clothing and accessories that people seek out like shoes, back-packs, dance wear, festival gear, holiday lingerie, and gender-neutral items that are hard-to-find in mainstream stores.
Cheeky gift items that people want but stores are too cautious to carry also draw shoppers to adult retailers. These little items put some fun back into gift-giving and offer a little surprise and delight when people open their bags. The body care and wellness categories have so much to offer in some stores, you forget they even sell vibrators. Retailers are offering luxurious options for CBD creams and sprays, cosmetics, exotic lubricants, self-pampering spa products, and other nontraditional self-care items.
Looking for some lusty words to peruse over, or maybe looking to delve deeper into a sexual topic you want to know more about, stores are offering some pretty great literary options on their shelves that one may not have thought they could find in a traditional vibrator store. Expanding into non-toy categories but keeping in the adult theme will be critical to a store’s physical survival. If you can demonstrate that you are not only a sex toy store, but an adult health and wellness store, your customers will see the different range of categories and opportunities they must shop. Not liking vibrators has nothing to do with not liking adult products.
So, when a customer comes in and says “I don’t like vibrators” what does that really mean? First, it’s a statement, not a question. It’s similar to a “hangry” partner that doesn’t know what they want, but you both know they must eat. Like your hangry partner, this customer didn’t take time out of their day to locate your specific retail destination just to inform you, a perfect stranger, that they don’t like vibrators. They are searching for help and a like a lot of people, don’t have the awareness or knowledge of how to ask. It’s hard enough going into an adult store when you are shy yet have an idea of what you want. Imagine how hard it must be to be shy and surrounded by what you “don’t” want. Shopping online has a lot of perks but sometimes you just must see the product in person. Second, it could mean you have a very educated customer on your hand that’s going to need your help to edit their interests. Either scenario gives you a jackpot of options to work with, and whether new to the sales floor or an experienced veteran, this type of customer can bring some serious revenue to your store.
When a customer offers a statement or hard question to start with, be humble. Invite them to lead the conversation, so as the sales associate you can navigate the sale. Sometimes we get so excited with all our knowledge and enthusiasm that we forget to listen. (Raises hand in guilt). In this case, the customer doesn’t like vibrators. How do you ask if it’s because they’ve tried and don’t care for them, or they don’t have a lot of knowledge on vibrators in general? Phrasing is so important! When you become accustomed to asking the same question a lot throughout the day, it’s easy to get monotonous in your approach. Asking open-ended questions and greeting the customer doesn’t equate to proactive selling. Showing vulnerability in sensitive situations can be a big booster in a customer feeling confident enough to tell you they don’t like vibrators but don’t know what else to try. You don’t have to share personal information or experiences with products to be playful and knowledgeable at the same time.
Pinch yourself and remember what it felt like the first time you walked into a store. Did an eager associate whisk you off, or were you numbly pointed in a general direction? Good or bad, someone else was a key factor in your shopping experience and your takeaway from that adult store. As the associate reading this, you get to directly control what type of shopping experience people have in your store. Look for the customers who are asking the hard questions or are looking hard not to be seen, those are your hidden gems.
At the end of the day we are all human and trying to figure out how to be the best versions of ourselves possible. As a society, we are finally talking about self-pleasure and how it can help us feel better and do better, both mind and body. No store is too small to matter, and no store is too big to be the only one that matters, it’s the people inside who make it count. Be human and help each other learn to connect so we can be stronger for each other.