To Prepare Your Retail Store for the Holidays, Train!

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a business and no one seems to know anything about the products they’re selling? You’re asking for help and they’re sending you to the wrong aisle, burying their heads in the computer — or worst of all, shaking their head and shrugging. Not only does this erode customer confidence, it usually ends with no sale. It certainly won’t inspire repeat business! Why would anyone return to a store where the staff are clueless about what they’re selling?

Our goal is to provide as much knowledge to our vendors as possible, so that they can properly guide their patrons to the best buying decisions. How can this be accomplished? Store trainings! Regular store trainings are the most effective way to avoid the dreaded shrug and watch your business thrive. It all boils down to these three elements: foot traffic, product knowledge and training benefits.

The fourth financial quarter of the year is notorious for high foot traffic — real live people pounding the pavement at brick-and-mortar stores. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa all fall in “Q4,” so it makes sense that it exceeds all other seasons in terms of dollars spent during in-person visits. It goes without saying that as a retailer, you want to optimize your sales during this time, and ensure customers are buying the proper items, so they aren’t returning them the day after Christmas! After all, this is the time when people are not only motivated to shop, they are more or less required to find something for everyone on their list. Why not turn their obligation into something that exceeds their expectations, and even gets them talking to their friends about how your store is the perfect go-to place for gift ideas, whether it’s fun stocking stuffers or something more substantial?

The key to maximizing foot traffic is preparation. Walk through the store as if you were the consumer. What products do you have front-racked? Are there gift ideas spelled out for people who aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for? Are the displays eye-catching and leading the customer on a path to more and more items? Get your “store experience” plan in place well before the panicked shoppers arrive. That way, instead of frantically pulling items from other areas on the fly, you can greet customers at each pre-prepared stop along their journey, and chat them up about the products that catch their eye.

Products are the star attraction. That’s why product knowledge is the best way to ensure sales success. It’s really that simple. Make sure that the customer is connecting with the product they want, or the product they want to buy for someone else. Ask questions to keep them engaged. “Who are you buying for?” or “Is this for yourself or a gift?” are great starters to get on the path to a sale. Then give them the highlights of the item they’re considering. What are its benefits? Who was it designed for? What has the feedback been from people who have purchased it before? These are all important factors in deciding whether or not you’re going to put something in your cart. If the sales representative has all the answers, it’s reassuring and creates an important connection.

An employee can be outgoing, attentive and helpful, but if they don’t know whether or not a product works better for men or women, that’s not going to translate well. We want the individuals selling our products to feel so comfortable with the product information that it just rolls off their tongue. That way, they’re in the perfect position for an upsell! We love trainings on product pairings, which benefits the consumer because employees can pass on that knowledge and create a more fulfilling experience for themselves and the person they’re buying a gift for. As a gift giver, it feels satisfying to have a “story” to go along with a gift. Not just, “I found this myself on the rack and thought it looked okay,” but rather, “The woman at the store says it’s the absolute best hands-free massage gel, and told me that it pairs beautifully with these candles.” Everyone wants to put some meaning into a gift, and it’s the salesperson’s job to give them that product knowledge as part of the purchase.

Advice and guidance are especially important when it comes to intimate products used on sensitive areas of the body, because a customer might feel inhibited about returning the item, not wanting to talk about it further since they “got it wrong.” They are far less likely to return for future purchases if they were steered in the wrong direction the first time. Incorrect information doesn’t just hinder one sale, it disconnects the customer from the whole experience of shopping for intimate products. On the flip side, a great experience can also lead to one of the most valuable sales tools out there: positive word of mouth.

The benefits of a well-trained staff are plentiful. Improving sales is the most obvious benefit, but training can also reduce staff turnover. How? Imagine you’re working in a store and you keep failing to close sales because you just can’t seem to connect customers with the right products. You’ve read all the labels and gone online to find talking points, but you’re not closing deals. Your manager thinks you’re not trying hard enough, which makes you resentful, and the cycle continues until one day you quit or get laid off. Now imagine that you attend a store training and get in-person advice on how to hold the products, show them off, talk about their benefits and upsell potential. You learn little details about how the product came to be, what the focus groups were like, and maybe even some funny anecdotes to share about the development or marketing of the product. Now you’ve got some investment in what you’re selling, and you feel confident out on the floor. Suddenly your sales are soaring, the manager is happy and you’re receiving a bonus. Thorough product trainings also ensure that staff can answer questions with ease on the spot and overcome any obstacles to a sale with key facts and details. A well-trained staff is a happy, productive one, which reflects back to the customer.

Let’s return to our walk-in experience. You know that feeling when you’re talking to a salesperson and they know all about the products they’re selling? Yeah, that’s what we want, too.

To Prepare Your Retail Store for the Holidays, Train! By Jared Pomerance originally appeared in XBIZ

How Will the Delta Variant Potentially Affect Adult Retail?

No one is super thrilled about the rising surge in COVID cases and how it may potentially cause another major shift in business. This time, our industry has a chance to prepare for any major shutdowns and plan how to navigate potential closures. As of now there are no closure mandates going into effect, but what we are seeing is a surge in voluntary closures. Event cancellations (none that are industry-related) are starting to trickle in for me, and that means one thing — prepare.

The last time we went into closures and shoppers started locking down in their homes, it caused all of us to shift how we did business to be accommodating to what was happening in our world. This time, we have more knowledge about what we need to do to support shoppers who are starting to stay home and order online again due to mandated closures.

Here are some ideas on how to prepare for the Delta variant and how it may affect us:

Cleaning and sanitizing remain incredibly important

Keep up the good habits you developed when COVID first appeared. Extra traffic in stores means more germs, so keep those sanitizing wipes well stocked. Lysol and Microban are great products when it comes to disinfecting all contact surfaces after periods of heavy foot traffic. This may sound clinical, but it’s important to keep your store safe and customers feeling confident. If they see the actions you are taking to be safe, it reaffirms the decision to shop with you and spend money.

Look at your tester policy

A lot of stores have put testers back out. I’m not saying you should not put them back out on display, but I would advise looking at how they are being sanitized to make sure customers feel confident in utilizing them. Testers are such a key part of our business; it’s an extra challenge to operate without them. Instead of taking them off the floor, put in place a strict sanitizing policy for anything that might be touched by multiple people on the sales floor throughout the day. Let customers see you taking safety seriously and they will be more likely to do so as well.

Promote online shopping if you can

A lot of retailers were able to implement online shopping as an option when COVID started. Send an e-blast to customers and offer them a discount if they shop online to help with their safety. If you already operate an online store, try directing more traffic to it. This gives you an excuse to reach out and promote your business, while also showing that you are working to keep your community safe. If you feel your conversion rates are low in trying to get people to shop online, now is a perfect time to experiment with different promotions or reward systems to see what your customers gravitate towards. Retail forces us to experiment frequently to find out what works for our stores and teams.

Online shopping isn’t just a website; it can also be done via social media. If you haven’t explored how to set up shopping options utilizing social media, it is a great way to drive sales, promote products, sell things online, and educate customers. It’s not just for fancy pictures, but a tool to make money. Share pics of new products, do small training videos, highlight promotions or deals that customers can take advantage of. Let customers know that items can be shipped for a small fee and set up drop shipping from your store. Lingerie is a great example of something to post on social media to get people’s interest without sharing a hardcore sex toy image, in case you are worried about going against the guidelines on social media platforms. Want to share something on the more daring side? Find a program that lets you blur or pixelate the more realistic-looking items.

Utilize online trainings to include as many team members as possible

I’m hearing different concerns about people in stores being vaccinated or not being vaccinated — remove the barrier and focus on online trainings again. I know it can feel redundant to sit in front of the computer for trainings but implement small prizes for those who attend. A $5 Starbucks card or a similar small gift can be a great way to reward those who engage, and also encourage more people to participate. It’s a little thing, but it goes a long way in making things feel new and fresh.

Tune into your CLIENTELING

Remember what customers shopped for with you during the last time that the pandemic altered retail. Offer them specials for being a VIP customer, even if it is in the form of a discount code. This is also a good time to check in on your social media followers. Are you following your top customers back when they follow you? It’s a small relationship-building tool, but it can be so effective when it comes to personalizing someone’s experience with you and your store.

While I hope that we don’t find ourselves back in states of lockdown, we have the opportunity this time to be prepared and help preserve business as we know it during strange times. New can be scary, but it can also be good. Being forced to step outside our comfort zones can show us new ways to make money and drive sales in our businesses. I hope this article doesn’t cause fear but highlights some small steps we can do to keep business flowing.

How Will the Delta Variant Potentially Affect Adult Retail? by Danielle Seerley originally appeared in XBIZ

A Look at the Psychology of Color in Branding

We all know that certain colors are synonymous with the business of love and lust. Given that you’ll be reading this in the run up to the Holiday Season and Valentine’s Day there will be no escape from red. Even outside of your erotic store, it’s the primary color for cards, vouchers, roses, heart-shaped balloons and all sorts of other objects and images. You don’t see green or yellow hearts. And when something is considered very exciting, intense, or passionate, it’s said to be “red hot.” I’m sure it’s no coincidence that 80 percent of Ferraris are sold in its rosso corsa paint scheme: more commonly known as “Ferrari red.”

Sure, there are other colors regularly employed by our industry, and if accepting of color psychology, seem fairly logical to use in creating an illogical and thoroughly emotional attitude and subsequent response among target audiences.

Black is invariably the color of mystery, luxury, sophistication and exclusivity. Think of black-tie events, or the AMEX black card (only available by invitation). Close to this is silver (think of “silver service”) or platinum (also heavily used by credit card companies and other service providers). And yes, I know the last two are metals rather than colors per se, but we’ll not split hairs at this moment in time.

Arguably at the other end is virginal white: associated with purity, weddings, and a bit of a contrasting trope when it comes to erotic entertainment or media. And the antithesis to red hot lovin’? A case of the blue balls. Yep, there’s those colors once more used to considerable effect in conveying an image or feeling.

Two rather pertinent questions subsequently arise. Are these colors now clichéd? And secondly, to what extent should new industry entrants use color to their advantage?

We’re already seeing adult products — along with the accompanying packaging — shunning the brash, bold primary colors and shades in favor of more neutral tones. Brands such as the Dodil and Chakrubs make perfect examples. Furthermore, many of these products — especially those commanding premium prices — could easily be mistaken as both a pleasure product and objet d’art to be proudly displayed in someone’s chamber and not out of place in a swanky interior lifestyle magazine, rather than normally hidden away inside the bedside drawer.

So is red now an outdated, clichéd color in the business of love and lust, and the erotic retail industry in particular?

One could simply respond by highlighting the number of centuries these color associations have already existed for. They’ve survived this long for good reason. Good luck to anyone intent on usurping these associations: they’ll be bankrupt before making a dent.

Please also note that these “traditional” colors are representative of sensations or experiences as a whole, regardless of individual consumer gender (I’ve written elsewhere on the whole “blue is for boys and pink is for girls” issue).

In short, yes, they’re clichéd. I’m certainly not going to deny it. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with clichés if through association they convey and engender positive urges, sensations and experiences. Either way, when they’ve lasted this long, they’re not going to disappear in our lifetimes: you can count on it. Bottom line: when clichés are this successful and positively perceived, don’t even think about discarding them.

Playing devil’s advocate for a moment (and being rather silly too), imagine some future dystopian, PC-gone-mad society: a combination of George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The powers that be are eradicating symbolic old color associations. On a huge stage with thousands sat below, a speaker announces: “The new color of love, passion and relationships is … [pause for dramatic effect] … ochre.”

Nah, me neither. But back in the here and now, what about at an individual company level? Should adherence to these colors be requisite or should they instead strike out fearlessly with a new color identity?

Adopting red especially will associate you with the business of love and lust — of that there’s no doubt. But am I not always advocating to zig when everyone else is zagging? Doesn’t this fly in the face of such advice? Not when it’s the most powerful link, such as between the color red and love or lust. Don’t try to challenge this.

But there are still different ways of forging a unique identity for your company. Just like Jennifer Aniston in those hair product ads, “here’s the science bit.”

When it comes to human cognition, color is actually second in line: we mentally process shape first. Need proof? Look no further than Nike’s iconic swoosh. From repeated exposure (for some, this may be a matter of decades) we don’t need the name Nike spelled out to know which brand of running shoes or sweatpants are being worn: one single swoosh now conveys everything.

So, first things first, have a great, distinctive shape or object as part of your visual identity. Then comes color. And finally comes form (content and language: your company or brand name). So, even if you initially think you’ll be unable to stand out from the crowd, by adhering to red, black, or white, you’ve got two other variables — big ones at that — to forge something really unique from. Make it worthwhile!

What this means is that when combined with the other elements of the marketing mix, there’s opportunity for these well-known colors to be employed, but you’d have to be the first in the particular niche you’re aiming to fill. There will be plenty of other companies employing black if offering premium product ranges in any given category. By all means you can use black too if you’re similarly offering upmarket products or services — provided it’s not in the same category as the other company already employing black — even though shape and form may differ.

Again, we can look at other industries to see examples. Pepsi arguably could never freely compete with Coca Cola until it ditched red (or most of it) from its brand identity. Going even further afield (pun partially intended), as John Deere tractors already owned green — the best color for agricultural machinery, given the associations with green grass and nature — there was no way Ford tractors could compete by similarly adopting green. John Deere would indirectly still benefit. Ford had no choice but to choose an entirely different color — blue. While it lacked a strong color association, at least there was no way people would confuse Ford for John Deere.

So, by all means, stick to those tried-and-tested colors of love and lust, or those conveying key traits. But, be mindful of your immediate competitors and the visual identity they possess, and cognitive processing — shape, color and form — when it comes to your own.

A Look at the Psychology of Color in Branding by Brian Gray originally appeared in XBIZ

Relationship-Building Is Only the First Step to Closing Retail Sales

Our success in this industry revolves around the ability of retail associates to build relationships with customers new and old, and in my 20 years of experience turning around troubled companies and retail locations, I’ve witnessed the same basic principles lead to success every time: relationship building, providing and fulfilling a need, and closing the sale.

These are the basics that you need to master if you want to not only be a great sales associate, but build a team of talented associates that results in success for the whole company. I’d like to share my wisdom on how to hone these skills.

I managed brick-and-mortar retail stores for more than 15 years and ran a “top five” store out of 100 in North Carolina. I was always in the top three for sales in the state personally, and was responsible for training all the associates, store managers and district managers in North Carolina — about 25 people each month. It was these years of training that shaped my beliefs about sales and management, and my tried-and-true method for success. Now, as the national sales director for United Consortium (System Jo), my view hasn’t changed. It’s still all about people.

Relationship-Building

People buy from friends, so as a sales person you must develop the ability to create a friendship immediately. Don’t worry, this can be learned! I’ve watched the shyest associates go from staring at their feet when customers walk in the door to actively participating with a few simple strategies.

Start with the first impression. Greet your customer at the soonest appropriate time, tell them your name and ask for theirs. There is nothing people like more than to hear their own names because it fosters the feeling of a “custom” experience. You can say, “Welcome! My name is Brian. And you are…?” Be excited to see them, give them a big smile and use an inviting tone of voice. I actually use a higher tone of voice when I deal with customers directly because I’ve noticed that it gets better results.

Remember that excitement is contagious. The customer will only be as excited to see you as you are to see them. If you’re gazing at the floor, why should they bother to engage? I used to tell my trainees, “Think about someone you’re excited to see every time you see them. How do they behave when you meet?” I always got the same answer: “They light up when they notice me, they smile and rush to give me a hug. They make me feel good.” I can think of several people like that in our industry, and whenever I go to events I anticipate seeing them because, let’s face it, we all want to feel good!

Creating & Fulfilling a Need

Every customer that walks through your door has a need they did not know they had, and you’re going to give it to them. Let’s say they come in looking for a specific toy. Great! Take them right to it. Then add, “If you like this, I think you would love this one!” Start walking to it and motion for them to follow. Choose the most expensive toy that is similar to the one they were seeking, believe it’s the best, and create a story for that item.

Story is a key element of this process. You can sell nothing without a story. Personal ones are the best, but if you do not have a personal story, steal one from someone else! You have nothing to lose by giving them some interesting details of your own or someone else’s experience with this toy or line of toys, and of course they can always say, “No, I want the other one.” You’re still making a sale. But why not build on their need, and use your expertise to guide them toward a fuller basket? “Great. Let’s get you that toy you came for, and then you’re going to need these, too!” Start walking to the accessories that go with the toy. They will follow.

You are the expert. Remember, you only need to know one more thing than someone else to be an expert at something. “You will need this toy cleaner,” for example. Start with the most expensive. “Oh, you will need this lube,” you can say. Then start walking and they will follow. Do they have a loved one they want to be more intimate with? Have they seen the incredible items that just went on sale? Is there a question they have that may seem less embarrassing now that you are “friends”? You can even tell a story about a question that someone else once asked you that turned out not to be as embarrassing as the customer thought.

Closing the Sale

Believe it or not, I have seen sales lost time and time again due to not asking simple questions to get the customer to the register. After all the work put in with this person, you must make a closing statement that leads to finalizing the sale.

Here are the four main types of closes:

  1. Assume the sale: “Did you want to pay with cash or credit?”
  2. Give options: “Did you want me to ring you up for this toy or the other?”
  3. Suggestion close: “Based on your needs, I think this would be the best for you. Ready to take this home today?”
  4. Urgency: “Let’s ring you up. We just got these back in stock, and they keep selling out!”

I believe in these three principles, and I’m happy to share my wisdom with you because lifting up others is a win-win. Before my life in business operations, I was an infantry soldier in the U.S. Army assisting in public relations. I worked with the United Nations Honor Guard in Korea and traveled the country parachuting into airshows. It was an exhilarating time in my life, and I’ll never forget that feeling of winning over new people every day as a representative of my country.

I’ve carried those relationship-building skills with me into the business world and found that it’s the formula for success. I hope it works for you too!

Relationship-Building Is Only the First Step to Closing Retail Sales by Brian Woolard originally appeared in XBIZ

How to Successfully Upsell Adult Retail Shoppers

Upselling. It’s a tricky game, trying to hit that target of being helpful to your customer, but not annoying or pestering them to get a sale. Not all retailers do it, but if you get upselling right, it’s certainly worth it. I’ve been to corner shops countless times and faced a barrage of offers, such as “Would you like to buy some fruit cakes today for only £1?” or “Can I interest you in some toffees? They’re on sale.” Each and every time, I refuse. I’m simply not interested, and because I’m only in there for a bottle of milk or a loaf of bread, I have no need for these other products. The upsell just isn’t useful or relevant to me and it often leaves me feeling irritated — this is a perfect example of how not to upsell.

Now, if I was buying, let’s say, dog food, and I was offered dog treats at the till, would I consider the upsell? I’m a huge dog lover and my chocolate lab/spaniel cross, Barney, is my fur baby, so yes, I would absolutely consider it — and will probably buy three or four packs because I’m a softie. A successful upsell!

Upsells are a great way to boost sales and sell items that customers wouldn’t ordinarily come in to buy without buying something else. It also helps to give your customer a better experience, and if they enjoy their purchase, there is a much higher chance they will return again.

Your upsell can’t just be “a great offer,” though. Not everyone will want the offer, so it isn’t going to be as “great” to them as you may think it is. The item has to be relevant to the transaction. Give the person a reason to buy your upsell. The product may work well with something in the purchase, or it may be required in order to use something that the customer has bought.

So, what upsells work in our industry?

Time for an example. Your customer brings a beautiful vibrator to the till and hands over their card to pay. You ring it up and then open your mouth and say… “Do you need any batteries at all?”

That’s it — you’ve nailed it! As long as the vibrator requires batteries, this is a great product to complement the sale. Even if your customer has batteries somewhere in their home, it’s usually easier for them to buy them there. This way they are sure, and they can be confident knowing that they will be able to use their purchase when they get home.

Once home, the thrill of their new purchase will hopefully be enough to drive them to return to your store in future.

For other upsell ideas, you just have to think of what products marry well together. For example, for butt plugs or dildos, you can suggest a lubricant as an upsell. Bondage collars can be sold with wrist and/or ankle cuffs (and vice versa), and why not suggest a blindfold to a customer buying a whip, explaining to them that it adds to the excitement and anticipation of not knowing when the next crack of the whip will strike?

Upsells are much easier in a physical store than through an online website. They don’t require programming or setting up, and the product can be placed strategically nearby within easy reach. For an online store, it becomes a slightly more complicated process.

Luckily, though, many off-the-shelf retail software packages and templates feature this type of system already built in, and just need the administrator to program in the upsells manually. These can be in the form of pop-ups (so when a customer adds a vibrator to their basket, a pop-up suggests to add the correct batteries to their order too), reminders (in the checkout, you could have a message similar to “Did you remember to add lube?”) or by related products on the product listing itself. (“Customers also purchased these” or “These products work great together!”)

Upselling can be a great way of maximizing order totals and increasing revenue, as well as giving your customer a positive and useful buying experience. These extra little sales aren’t designed to be “hard sell” purchases but will complement the sale and leave your customer feeling like they have had the complete package.

How to Successfully Upsell Adult Retail Shoppers by Daniel Miller originally appeared in XBIZ

Style, Function Are Key to Anal Toy Shoppers

 

These days sex toys are bringing more to the table than ever before: high-tech features, special formulations, proprietary materials, unique ingredients, and more. With so much focus on what sex toys can do, it can be easy to overlook how much pleasure products have evolved aesthetically, too. Modern consumers want toys that have it all, and functionality isn’t the only key selling point for them. They want products that provide pleasure and look good while doing it, and there’s one particular category that I believe offers some truly interesting visual appeal: butt plugs. Let’s see how these once-simple toys have advanced to become fun fashion statements and unique extensions of our personalities!

So, What are Butt Plugs?

When I say butt plug, I am referring to toys made specifically to be inserted into the rectum for sexual pleasure. They tend to have tapered tips for easy, comfortable insertion and must have flared bases to prevent them from becoming lost in the rectum. This flared base is where we’ve seen companies having a ton of fun with aesthetics and accessorizing. (I’ll get into that more in a moment.)

The Evolution of the Butt Plug

Butt plugs were originally sold as prescription medical devices that were meant to treat ailments like insomnia, constipation and acne. (The history of sex toys is wild!) Modern anal plugs have come a long way from their medical device roots and now make up a huge category designed with mostly pleasure in mind. Today’s butt plugs come in many shapes and sizes designed to serve a variety of needs, including expansion and anal training, prostate stimulation, dual penetration, and sensation enhancement. They are often made with high-quality, easy-to-clean, body-safe materials like stainless steel, platinum silicone, and borosilicate glass, and though the materials themselves remain relatively straightforward, it’s what companies are doing with the base — the part of the plug that’s visible while being worn — that stands out.

Plugs Go From Basic to Badass

Many people wear butt plugs as fun accessories, tools that introduce fun and whimsy into play, and there are so many different options for consumers who want to decorate their derrieres. Some brands offer traditionally shaped plugs with a variety of decorations on their exterior ends, including glittery gems, ceramic rosebuds, and even interchangeable LED lights controlled by an external remote. These super-fun plugs allow users to express their unique personalities while enjoying anal stimulation, and the whimsical designs make them welcoming to first-time users who may be intimidated by anal play.

Butt Plugs With Style and Substance

Some shoppers want to enjoy the look of a blingy plug but don’t want to skimp on the erotic sensation that heftier plugs can offer, which is why there are metal plugs featuring weighted and decorated bases. Items like the Hot Pink Gem Weighted Anal Plug combine sensation play with aesthetic décor; functionally, its nickel-free aluminum construction allows for temperature play and its base is weighted significantly to appeal to sensation enthusiasts — but set in each weighted base is a glittery pink gem. Because they come in three sizes with graduated weights, items like this cater to anal aficionados who need next-level plugs but also want to enjoy the gem trend.

Bringing Novelty Into the Butt Plug Game

Some shoppers simply want something fun — sometimes even silly — from their anal plugs in order to add levity and personalization to something that otherwise might feel too serious. That’s where anal plugs with novelty accents come in handy for retailers. Whimsical designs may incorporate symbolism in order to appeal to a different consumer, and some of these plugs even come in three-piece sets for size trainers. Some of the newest plugs on the market combine the novelty aesthetic with butt plug musts, like premium silicone and remote-control vibration, with fun, flashy accents.

Help Shoppers Discover the Plug of Their Dreams

Butt plugs are perennially popular, and most stores have multiple options on hand at any given time. But does your store also cater to shoppers who want to make butt stuff feel even more fun? Embracing these trends can expand your customer base and offer options that shoppers may never have known existed outside of a novelty shop — show them that they don’t have to skimp on quality and body-safety in order to enjoy something with some flash or pizzazz. The benefit of having blinged-out butt toys on display is they’re eye-catching, pretty to look at, and fun to test before buying. An enticing butt plug display — with samples — might be enough to make a sale without a staff member even having to say a word.

These days there are butt plugs available that cater not only to shoppers’ stimulation needs but also their unique sense of style and personality. Retailers who are aware of the newest features and latest trends will be well-positioned to help every customer that comes through their door find the plug that fits them best!

Style, Function Are Key to Anal Toy Shoppers by Rebecca Weinberg originally appeared in XBIZ

How to Address Gender on the Adult Retail Floor

As a transmasculine person, I’ve both understood and despised the trappings of society’s gender/sex binary — defining gender solely according to whether you are the owner of a vulva or a penis, and having that determine the rest of your life.

Society isn’t evolving as much or as quickly as is our knowledge and understanding of gender. Trans people have existed forever; so have non-binary people, two-spirited people, literally every version of queer you can imagine — we’re not new news. The difference between then and now, however, is our refusal to accept the status quo of a closeted existence or having to settle for most things being designed for, and marketed to, heterocisnormative bodies and desires.

A question I am constantly asked during my business travels is: “How can I/we be more inclusive of our trans or nonbinary customers?” It warms my heart every time, because I know that it means people are finally listening and creating a safe space for my community to gather and spend their queer dollars.

It’s a complicated question, but with a series of simple answers, all of which share the common denominator of realizing we all are part of the same humanity, regardless of how we identify. Times are changing, and while old habits die hard, there is always room for growth. I’m confident you’ll find it easier than you thought it would be!

First, never assume a person’s gender. Never assume a person’s pronouns. Like, ever. It seems simple enough, but in situations where you are faced with a masculine-presenting person with facial hair, it might be a habit to use masculine pronouns or titles. “Hey, man!” or “Yes, sir” may not be the appropriate greeting for that person, but in a public space, they may not feel safe enough to correct you. Immediately, they feel invalidated and tightly crammed into an invisible, yet very real, societal box.

When you really think about it, all society perceives gender as is whether you happen to have an innie or an outie below the belt. Do we really want to be immediately defined and sized up by what someone else thinks is in our pants? Of course not. Also, that’s super weird.

Instead of “Hey, ladies” or “Hey, guys,” greet people with a “Hey Folks!” I guarantee you that no one in any group will be offended by being addressed as “folks.” For individual customers, it can seem a little more complicated. How can we connect with them, without addressing them in a way that would be insensitive or offensive? The answer is by simply addressing them as a person, and not as a genital-determined person. “Hi! Thanks for coming in today. Please let me know if there’s anything I can help you find.” Eliminate gender from the equation, and the answer will never be wrong.

When we are face to face with our clientele, helping them make informed choices on the pleasure products they choose, it can often feel like a game of cat and mouse. Are you looking for G-Spot or P-Spot? Are you looking for vaginal or anal? Are you looking for this sensation or that sensation? We have to ask so many questions if we’re doing our job right, and still make sure our customers feel comfortable enough to really tell us what they are after. Breaking it down in ways we wouldn’t have thought of before may be the key to your success in breaking old habits.

Let’s broaden our scope when it comes to the idea of “how” toys are used. If we make it more about individual or customer preference, rather than the “listed” use, it gives our customers permission to experience pleasure in ways that affirm them. If we explain to our customers that the P-spot and G-spot are basically in the same location, just next door to each other, we widen the range of what our customers can feel comfortable buying. The person who presents in a masculine way may be the owner of a vagina, and not feel affirmed buying the pink and purple G-spot toys. Why settle, when a prostate toy can do the very same thing for the G-spot and vice versa? Prostate toys are just as much a delight vaginally as they are anally, and G-spot toys are just as intense anally as they are vaginally.

We work so hard in every one of our roles, from designing products, manufacturing and distributing, to unboxing and displaying in your stores, and interacting with the end consumer on their individual journeys to personal pleasure. The real work is done in those end moments, when they look to you for permission to experience pleasure on their terms, without settling. They are looking to you for validation, shame-shattering understanding — and most of all, the feeling that it is OK to be just as they are, even if it includes the very pleasurable help of the innovations we continually strive to create.

Whether male or female, trans masc or trans femme, non-binary, gender-fluid, cisgender, intersex, or any combination of the above, we are all people that are deserving of peace, happiness, love — and yes, pleasure. Our bodies are very much alike, regardless of their differences. Embracing true self-gratification, and providing the safe space to find the tools to do so, is the future of our industry and a most necessary means to remain relevant.

How to Address Gender on the Adult Retail Floor by Joshua Ortiz originally appeared in XBIZ

A Look at the Adult Retail Trends to Stay Optimistic About

As a futurist, I’m always a glass-half-full kind of girl. When it comes to business, however, it isn’t just about keeping a positive mentality — the adult retail biz has provided plenty of evidence as to why I think we are looking at a bright future and an increase in profits.

The adult retail industry will double in capacity because there is tons of room in the market to capture new customers who have never tried our products.

According to a recent Journal of Sexual Medicine article, 52 percent of women and 44 percent of men have used vibration in their sexual practices either alone or with partners. That means that we have the other half of the adult population to evangelize. The easiest way to start banking on this trend is by taking advantage of the physical space that your store occupies. Make your customers feel welcome and comfortable while they shop, while also taking every opportunity to reach out and capture new customers as they move through your shop. You should also offer ample parking to make a visit to your store as convenient as possible. As you make decisions on new locations or property acquisitions, make sure you have the capacity to serve a growing market.

The adult retail industry will double because we are the most adaptable and creative people on the planet.

As classic as our subject is, the adult industry has proved its ability to adapt and overcome all sorts of technology. From film to tapes, to DVDs, to OnlyFans, we have proved time and again that where there is a market for our products, we will overcome all challenges to sell to it.

We as adult retailers — regardless of the digitization and isolation — have drawn local communities through our doors because our kind of sales is a very personal business. Times change, but people don’t. We all crave connection.

I would love to see us make even more emotional impact and less environmental impact, as we adapt to the manufacturing changes created by the supply chain issues that we have all been exposed to.

Let’s make thoughtful choices that produce good value for our customers and minimal negative impact on the environment.

I am already seeing forward-looking companies using recycled materials in their products, and starting to create less packaging around the things they ship.

I believe our ability to adapt and address the real-world challenges our customers face will buy us greater customer loyalty in the future. After all, we are all problem-solvers at heart.

The adult retail industry will continue to grow because people just want to feel good.

It’s a universal principle that transcends culture: we all want to feel good — whatever that means to each of us individually. The pleasure that our products provide brings people back into balance. In a world filled with fears and stressors, we all need to bring a little focus back to ourselves and take time to feel good.

Even the CDC acknowledges that people who use our products have better psychological well-being and take better care of their sexual health than those who don’t.

Being a retailer gives me a bird’s-eye view of the changing cultural norms and I can tell you that the millennial generation is aging into the acceptance and use of our products, and it is delightfully hedonistic. They want to feel good and they don’t care who knows it. As people age and feel the pressures of time on their body, the desire for physical solutions will only grow stronger.

It is a great time to be in the adult industry. Every day is a good day to make the world a better place. As adult retailers, we have the ability to make someone’s life better every day, and that is a good reason to stay optimistic.

A Look at the Adult Retail Trends to Stay Optimistic About by Tami Rose originally appeared in XBIZ

How Can We Make Sex Talk Easier?

Have you ever played the word game, Taboo? The idea is that you have to get your teammates to guess a word that’s written on your card — “hotel,” for example — but without using the word itself, or any related words listed on the card (like “room,” “holiday,” “keycard,” etc.) It’s tricky. It’s an interesting exercise in how good you are at communication. If you want to win the game, it takes a lot of skill, a bit of experimentation and occasionally a bit of mind-reading. This is how life is for many people who struggle to talk about sex.

This month I was reading an article about a recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, which looked at rates of women faking orgasm alongside their attitudes towards sexual communication. The conclusion — which will probably not come as a surprise to many who work in the sex industry — was that greater self-reported sexual satisfaction was associated with more comfortable sexual communication. The easier it is for you to talk about sex, the more satisfying your sex life will be.

It may not be surprising, but it’s nice to have confirmation of something I’ve long since suspected: if you can be specific about what gives you pleasure, and comfortable communicating that to a partner, then you’re likely to enjoy a much more satisfying sex life. The principle extends to solo sex too — if you’re shopping around for sex toys, it’s invaluable to be able to specify whether you prefer clitoral stimulation to G-spot stimulation, rumbly and powerful toys or gentler sensations, patterns or constant vibrations, and much more besides. It’s the difference between walking into Carphone Warehouse with a list of your specific requirements (“I need a decent camera because I like to take pictures, at least 5GB of data each month, and a carrier with coverage in Aberdeen”) versus simply saying “I know nothing about this” and letting the salesperson sell you something overpriced and unfit for your purpose.

When it comes to getting what you want, there is no substitute for good communication. You probably know this if you’re working in sex toy customer service or marketing: if I had a dollar for every time someone asked “will my wife like X?” and had to be gently reminded that the only way to know that is to talk to their wife about X, I’d probably own a yacht by now. But how do we get people to communicate more about this? How can we help those who have unsatisfying sex because they simply can’t find the words to talk about it?

Recent discussions around the orgasm gap have been doing well, I think, at highlighting the importance of communication. And not just generic communication like “this is where my clit is, please stimulate it!” but more in-depth discussions around individual bodies, and the very personal and unique ways different people respond to stimulation.

There was a fantastic twitter thread this month by sex and relationships journalist Franki Cookney, in which she took issue with a meme that was going around on Instagram at the time. The meme read, “It takes 237 muscles to fake an orgasm, but only 15 to say ‘it’s called a clitoris and it’s right here.’” Franki’s point — which was an excellent one — is that there is far more to communication than just saying “here is my clitoris.” Thinking back to that study, the women who reported greater sexual satisfaction were likely not just pointing towards their clitorises and saying “there!”, because there’s so much more to it than that: the type of stimulation someone needs (which may or may not be clitoral), whether they use sex toys, whether they feel comfortable within the relationship (and within that exact moment) to be precise about exactly what they need, and whether they can guarantee that their partner will hear and understand them.

In the study, reasons women gave for not communicating their needs included not wanting to hurt a partner’s feelings, not feeling comfortable going into detail, and embarrassment. So while it may be easy for those of us who work in the sex toy industry to say, “This is my clitoris, here’s how you need to stimulate it,” there are many women for whom this simply isn’t the case. So how can those of us who are comfortable with communication pave the way for those who find it more difficult? The first thing is one I think we’re all doing already: talking and writing about sex in easy-to-access ways. Most sex toy companies, adult performers and other industry types are already aware of the difference it can make to simply talk openly on our public platforms about sex. Whether Instagram, Twitter, blogs, or any other channel that works to reach people who may not have heard of you before.

The other thing, though, is an area I think we can all improve on: getting rid of language that feeds into embarrassment. I’m very conscious, when reading sex-related posts, of words like “naughty” or “indecent” or “rude.” In some contexts these can heighten people’s arousal by playing on the “taboo” nature of what we do. But when overused, these words cement a feeling of shame: teaching people that their sex lives are things that should be whispered about behind closed doors. Likewise euphemisms like “V-zone” or “froo froo” (actual terms used in marketing products to people with vaginas!) can sometimes cause more harm than good: making it difficult for people (whether through ignorance or embarrassment) to specifically name parts of their body when they’re trying to communicate their needs.

As I say, I think in the sex industry we’re pretty good at this already. We aren’t afraid to have the conversations that more mainstream industries might shy away from. But it’s something I think we need to always be aware of: where we may be using euphemisms or ‘shaming’ language ironically, because we know there’s no shame in sex, there are many people who still can’t bring themselves to name body parts or articulate their needs. Studies like the one mentioned above are a good reminder that not everyone’s up to speed yet, and we need to tailor our work accordingly. Use accurate terms, with confidence, and keep repeating them until they are no longer “taboo” things to whisper in embarrassment, but everyday terms that everyone feels comfortable using.

How Can We Make Sex Talk Easier? by Julia Margo originally appeared in XBIZ

Resurrecting Retail: Why Keeping Shelves Stocked Is Key

How do you resurrect a boutique that is going down fast? A common mistake that is made, which leads to the further decline of a boutique, is putting a hold on spending. Managers often do this to show their owner a smaller loss, but it is a lethal mistake! As the old adage goes, “you have to spend money to make money!” In retail, the problem is that you can’t survive if you don’t have stock. When you allow this to happen, you are left with old, stale and unwanted product. A store with empty shelves and walls looks like it’s going out of business.

Worse yet, when sales decline, morale often drops to an all-time low. The team’s desire to be a team and keep the store afloat diminishes. It’s very challenging to bounce back and obviously very costly to do so. The problem is only amplified if it’s a “mom and pop” shop that doesn’t necessarily have the spare cash to keep the store afloat while it’s rebuilt. Eventually, you will have to make the decision to restock and make your shelves and walls plentiful again. By this time, you are running very thin with good staff and sellable product. Again, “it takes money to make money!”

The best advice I can give is to begin your search for support within the vendors and manufacturers you support. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you do ask for a little help from time to time, you will more than likely receive support from the brands to which you have been loyal. Some vendors are willing to give you product to fill space with the agreement of maintaining that space with their product. Others may be willing to offer deeper discounts or longer terms. The main objective, however, is to build that morale and unity back up so that when you do get your store back to the “full” appearance it needs to be successful, you have a sales team that is ready to contribute to that success!

Refresher courses and seminars from your top vendors often result in better product knowledge for your sales force and even sample product for them to try out at home. The best part is that these seminars are free! We all know it’s easier to help speak to the quality of product when we have tried it ourselves, or at the very least, when we know how to explain it thoroughly to the customer. This also allows you to demonstrate to your staff that there are people out there that are willing to help. It is obviously a win for all. It’s important to know the difference between taking advantage of others and working with others to benefit both parties. Your vendors are often your key allies when trying to conquer any problem in a store. Leverage their strength, knowledge and training ability as much as you can.

A great start is working with what you have and exhausting your resources once you have a good, clean platform with which you can work. I mean this literally! Get your establishment clean and orderly and get yourself some systems in place to maintain that order. If this means scrubbing floors or bathrooms, then that’s what it means. When your staff sees YOU doing the hard work, they won’t hesitate to do the same when it’s their turn. Once that’s complete, you are ready to reach out for help. Let others know that you are first willing to help yourself. I find that you will receive the most out of people when you demonstrate the fact that they will receive the most out of you in return.

Lastly, carefully analyze your sales team to see which members have strengths that can be utilized. For example, is Sally good at selling high-end toys, but has little to no lingerie sales? Profile each of your employees to target areas for improvement. We often do not know what our team is capable of until we allow them to teach us as well! Be open to the possibility of learning from the people that are on the front lines dealing directly with guests. Promote those that are willing to bring new ideas to the table and put in the required work. There will be people that have moved up the ladder solely because of friendship, while others might be a better fit for the position. Give everyone the opportunity of growth and do not let nepotism plague your operation. If you overlook these talented people, they will likely seek opportunities elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to make these necessary changes. This is, after all, your business, and at the end of the day, YOU are the responsible one. Those that do not agree or understand this growth are only contributing to the failure of your business.

I am fortunate enough to have had several opportunities to travel to other Deja Vu boutiques to help out however I can. While the goal is to help others seek out new ideas and better ways of operating, it is always a huge learning experience for myself and the team that travels with me. I always leave inspired. I always find something to take with me and implement when I get home. These experiences have definitely given me an advantage when it comes to operating a business. Traveling to other adult boutiques may not be something within your reach but you can always check out your local competition. This research can begin right in the comfort of your office by simply checking these places out through social media or seeing what they are doing differently in the consumer’s eye to receive five-star Yelp reviews. There is no shame in imitating ideas that have proven themselves successful in similar businesses. Change is scary but it always pays off!

Resurrecting Retail: Why Keeping Shelves Stocked Is Key by Megan Swartz originally appeared in XBIZ