In partnership with Versea Health, Doc Johnson is proud to present what they believe to be an entirely new segment in adult retail.
(Note: This story appears in the October 2023 issue of SE Magazine)
oothpaste, toilet paper and a pregnancy test. Or, rather, pretzels, cigarettes and a female contraceptive.
It doesn’t really make any sense, does it? Walking down a drug store aisle for reproductive health care products you can’t ask any questions about, because the 16-year-old checkout clerk unlocking the case has no knowledge of them?
That’s what Scott Watkins, VP of Sales & Marketing for Doc Johnson, thought, too, when he met a representative from Versea Health at a non-adult category tradeshow earlier this year, and she asked him a basic question about the brands of female contraceptive products which can typically be found in adult stores.
“She, of course, was shocked to learn that in the typical adult store in the United States, diagnostic testing and female contraceptive are not readily available to the end-consumer,” recalls Watkins. “Naturally, we started talking about how we could communicate to our retailers the necessity of changing that, working together to develop a program that would offer these products in stores, and which made sense for our world. This idea grew to constitute what is now the Doc Johnson Wellness Center.”
Retailers who have heard of the new collaboration between Doc Johnson and Versea Health, which began in January of this year, are asking, “Why did this take so long?” according to Watkins.
“These items should already reside in adult stores,” he explains. “We’re just opening up what is a natural extension of all the products offered at any retail location today.”
Comprehensive care from Doc Johnson and Versea Health
Versea Health is a healthcare company, which manufactures diagnostic and therapeutic point of care (POC), over the counter (OTC) solutions for products. They’ve been in business since the end of 2018, but, prior to this collaboration with Doc Johnson, have had zero contact directly with the adult retail category, according to Watkins.
“They just didn’t have any background in our world, making this the perfect opportunity for us to be the conduit,” Watkins shares.
When in the adult world, we look at what sexual health and wellness means, for the majority of us, it has been focused on hard goods, such as vibrators, lubricants and dildos.
“But there’s so much more than that,” Watkins urges. “For sexual wellness, there’s a physical factor, there’s a psychological factor, an interpersonal factor, as well as social factors. This product line in collaboration with Versea Health helps to expand what health and wellness really means.”
To really fulfill their claim as “a one-stop shop when it comes to being able to provide sexual health and wellness,” Doc Johnson knew that they would have to expand their offerings to encompass this new category. Watkins believes that The Doc Johnson Wellness Center will be the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive health and wellness display program for adult retailers. The Wellness Center will provide at its onset: ovulation tests, pregnancy tests, a six-panel drug test, fentanyl tests and a female contraceptive product they’ve entitled, ‘Empowered Choice.’
“We intentionally named it ‘Empowered Choice,’ because we think that it’s important to give the choice to the consumer,” shares Watkins. “With all the abortion debate that’s out there now, we understand that American adults want to be more prepared, as opposed to waiting out the potential controversy.”
Education through conversation
No adult store in the country is unaware of the threats to adult wellness which are present at every political session as of late. And while the debates are surely on their minds, operating a retail space is a lot of work, and the day-to-day operation surely takes precedence. But the introduction of a potentially entirely new category for a retailer is a prompt for conversations which might not already be taking place in stores.
“Through conversation with customers and employees, you learn what the needs are, what the misconceptions may be and what the realities are,” says Watkins. “At an adult store, you can ask those awkward questions. We’re going to train retailers in these products, so that they can answer those questions. And for customers who aren’t ready to ask, there’s a QR code to direct them to any of the digital information that they might need.”
Adult store accessibility and the sexual health revolution
The majority of food/drug mass locations throughout the US where you would typically find these wellness products at have a number of factors obstructing their accessibility, including the discomfort of being in a generic store with an adult-based products and the difficulty with which questions about the products can find their answers.
“My feeling is that the adult stores are the non-shame zone,” says Watkins.
For Doc Johnson, one of the most exciting aspects of this new venture is just making this sexual wellness care accessible to the customer base that needs it. To make this possible, Doc Johnson ensures that all of the MSRPs are reasonable retail price points.
Also exciting in terms of accessibility is the idea of at-home testing for STDs. In today’s time, especially due to the COVID pandemic, the general American public is far more familiar with at-home testing than they once were, which Watkins believes is excellent timing for these products.
“When it came to female contraceptive products, Pre-COVID, we would generally run to the store after a night of pleasure for the pill, because we rarely just had it in the house,” says Watkins. “Now, everybody’s got COVID tests at home, and they’re used to doing testing. The general shift in public awareness is that it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
“These items should already reside in adult stores. We’re just opening up what is a natural extension of all the products offered at any retail location today.”
– Scott Watkins
What a revolution having readily available testing could bring for the sexual health of all adults, if everybody were prepared with at-home tests, acquired from their local adult retailer! And concerning six-panel drug and fentanyl testing, it hasn’t come soon enough, especially as fentanyl overdoses persist in the most unlikely of places.
“It’s not a matter of, ‘Don’t do drugs.’ It’s a matter of, ‘Don’t die from doing drugs.’ Here’s a solution to help protect you,” explains Watkins.
It’s a sentiment that rings throughout the adult industry: ‘Your body is your choice to do what you want with, but we have the resources and the knowledge to aide you in doing so safely.’
Potential for growth in retail
“Economically, across multiple sectors, things are tight,” Watkins expresses. “The economy is, if not in recession, pre-recession, and I think in our category we fully understand that we are not a necessity for the majority of consumers out there — even though, that’s debatable, because once you start using our products, it’s hard to not use our products. Regardless, many stores are wondering how they can reach a wider customer base.”
In this sense, the Wellness Center from Doc Johnson could not be more timely and important. Watkins anticipates that many consumers new to adult stores will come in search of what the Wellness Center is offering. Not only is this a potentially new prospect of revenue for retailers, but Watkins also hopes that the expansion of the category of sexual health and wellness will help to de-stigmatize adult stores to the general public.
“These products are the kind of bridge items that help to continue to normalize our industry,” he offers.
Hosting a Doc Johnson Wellness Center
The biggest questions from adult retailers with a new product segment are always going to be: “Where does this go?” and “How do I merchandise this?”
“These items have been readily available at any food/drug mass store for quite some time, but the vast majority of adult retailers haven’t had them in their stores,” explains Watkins.“Designing our Wellness Center, we saw it as a priority to inform consumers that the product line is even available, and so, we decided to build a center, a stop-and-shop, that a retailer can just plug-and-play into their store.”
The Doc Jonhson Wellness Center provides everything a retailer would need to make these products available, as well as suggestions and recommendations for cross-merchandising in a store.
“You don’t even have to think about it, all the information a consumer needs about the product will be there for you,” says Watkins. “And there’s a QR code on the Center which customers can scan for more information about what these products are and what should be expected from their usage.”
As far as retailer support, Watkins says that the Wellness Center is its own program, in the sense that an abundance of information is available at the QR code, in addition to the training for retailers which will come personally from Doc Johnson representatives.
“We have access to a group of health care professionals who are putting together some video information we’ll be making available as online seminars,” he shares.
Doc Johnson will also be offering point-of-purchase signage for customers seeking this care, with directions such as: “Diagnostic testing available here” and “Female contraceptive products available here.”
“Education is key,” Watkins explains. “Consumers know they can get condoms in adult retail stores, but we need to make sure that they know about the other health and wellness care that’s becoming available with this effort.”
The industry’s expansion
The Doc Johnson Wellness Center will be shipping come October 2023, and all of the items within the Wellness Center will be available as a unit, as well as individually. To get these products to retailers nationwide, every major domestic distributor in the industry will soon be carrying them.
Retailers can also look forward to new products which are expected to accompany the Wellness Center within the next four to six months, including gonorrhea testing, chlamydia tests, STI tests and much more to come from this venture.
“This is the generation of a new category within our world that I believe will be around forever,” Watkins enthuses.
For more information, visit DocJohnson.com.