(Note: This story appears in the June issue of STOREROTICA Magazine)
Industry vendors address current, COVID-related issues and how they see things moving forward in the coming weeks.
“Unprecedented.” “Catastrophic.” “Devastating.”
By now, you’ve heard the words surrounding COVID-19 tossed around, maybe even become numb to them. But there’s been other words, too. “All In.” “Strength.” “Together.” “Heroes.”
Whether it’s been a Facebook group created for the adult industry or a store working a skeleton crew with meticulous regulations to ensure customer satisfaction, the adult industry has banded together, shedding labels like “rivals” and “competitors.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is causing major shifts in our industry as companies, including ours, are changing the way they do business,” says Susan Colvin, President of CalExotics. “We are seeing retailers around the world closing retail locations and shifting to online sales. This is a huge change, as brick and mortar retail is still the heart of this industry. We’re offering online support, and continue to work on new and exciting products set to release this summer. Please know, CalExotics is here for its customers and friends throughout the industry during these uncertain times.
“On a more positive note, even during this pandemic, we are seeing people interested in sex and sex-related products,” Colvin adds. “People are spending more time at home, alone or with a partner, and they are looking for things to do. Sex toys is one area of the market I believe is helping bring some much needed joy into the world.”
In the following pages, we highlight what other top industry vendors have said and what they’ve done to combat the coronavirus pandemic and how the adult retail industry has persevered.
Q: What steps are you taking to ensure the safety of your employees while at the same time fulfilling orders and assisting retailers?
“All of our sales team works remotely, already, but we have suspended our normal travel for the time being in order to do our part in staying safe and slowing the spread. Our warehouse immediately implemented steps to help flatten the curve and on Friday, March 13, we sent out bulletpoint precautions and guidelines to ensure our team’s safety.” — Kim Scott Faubel, COTR (B-Vibe, Le Wand)
“Rock Candy/Bedroom Products’ shipping facility is operated by a single employee, and we are limiting shipping to one day a week. Our staff is working remotely and accessible/corresponding with retail and distributor customers all day. Basically minimizing any potential risk by cleaning thoroughly and running on a very slim staff while still maintaining operations.” — Casey Murphy, Rock Candy/Bedroom Products
“We are working in close partnership with our retailers and distributors to make sure they get the support they need in regards to marketing materials, samples, and education that can help to keep them informed about our line. As they work to re-open their brick and mortar stores, and in some cases are pivoting their focus to online retail, we are amping up our efforts internally to provide them with as many resources as they need.” — Megwyn White, Satisfyer
“I am advising my customers (stores) to set up sanitizing stations for consumers to use as they enter the store, install a sneeze shield at the cash wrap, and cover credit card key pads with plastic wrap. Staff should sanitize counters and hands in between every transaction. Give one-on-one service so consumers don’t need to touch anything.” — Pat, ECN
“Working from home, a skeleton crew practicing social distancing, Zoom and Facetime meetings, and expanded social media activity.” — Elliot Schwartz, Nasstoys
“Providing masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and temp checks. Safe distance rules and no visitors at our distribution center.” — Curtis Thompson, Sport Fucker
“We are practicing social distancing and following protocol. Making sure everyone wears masks, uses gloves and frequently washing hands. Safety is first!” — Briana Watkins, M.D. Science
“Our staff has been divided into two teams. Each team comes in every other day. We have set up hand-sanitizing stations in several places of the office and warehouse. Door handles are being wiped down regularly. The use of masks and gloves is mandatory. All employees are advised if they have any flu-like symptoms to stay home.” — Nef Martinez, Elbow Grease Lubricants
“Our business events in New York have been shut down until further notice. On the retail side, we are using social distancing and mask protection. My husband and I are the only current employees.” — Kimberly Petersen, The Deviate Network
“We are providing a complete and comprehensive reopening package for stores to include masks, PPE supplies, floor and wall signs, new PuriSpray sanitizer in personal sizes and wall-mounted touchless sprayers.” — Keith Caggiano, Rock’N Products
“Masks, hand sanitizers, social distancing, many non-essential workers are working from home.” — Rebecca Weinberg, XR Brands
“Those that can or wish to are working from home and we have provided masks, gloves and sanitizer to all employees still working in the warehouse.” — Rebecca Pinette-Dorin, Exsens
Q: How will the pandemic affect your new product releases going forward?
“We plan on continuing to launch 80 new products this year, along with the launch of our new app, and have not been affected by the pandemic in regards to the launch. Our focus will be to start launching 3-4 products a week at the beginning of June, and will utilize online training for many distributors to help provide our customers with the education they need to be adept at sharing their benefits with customers.” — Megwyn White, Satisfyer
“We have been fortunate that our new product releases have not been affected with shipment delays, however, presenting the items to our wholesale partners will now be done virtually. The only difference, for now, is we cannot be physically close to those we do business with. We had intended to debut our Stainless Steel Le Wand Collection and the new Anal Massage & Education Set at the Altitude Show in Las Vegas but, instead, presented the items via e-mail and video conferences. We cannot believe the incredible response we received, even though we couldn’t present in person – re-orders were coming in within a week of people placing orders on new pieces, which has been so encouraging.” — Kim Scott Faubel, COTR (B-Vibe, Le Wand)
“We won’t have the normal outlets of tradeshows to show them off. We expect stores won’t be spending a whole lot on new items until cash flow improves and they are caught up on their bills. I think distributors will be hit the hardest by slow-paying stores.” — Rebecca Weinberg, XR Brands
“Stores are anxious to see new product. missing shows leaves it to me to teach and show all retailers.” — Pat, ECN
“We are on full schedule to release our anticipated items for 2020.” — Curtis Thompson, Sport Fucker
“We will do business as usual, seeking out opportunities in the market place.” — Briana Watkins, M.D. Science
“It already affected the new projects/products we were looking to showcase at ANME. Those projects are all now on hold until a solution/cure to this pandemic is found.” — Nef, Martinez, Elbow Grease Lubricants
“Difficult to tell since things change on a daily basis but we feel very optimistic about our market.” — Kathryn Hartman, Nasstoys
“We have postponed the release of our sixth game edition temporarily. We have a product line specific towards swingers. Social distancing means no events at this time.” — Kimberly Petersen, The Deviate Network
Q: How should brick-and-mortar staff operate to ensure customers’ safety and peace of mind while dealing with intimate products?
“It’s important to follow the CDC guidelines when dealing with products and customers. Thankfully, our new packaging ensures even more assurance in regards to hygiene protection.” — Megwyn White, Satisfyer
“I think patience is key. People have been isolated and, frankly, this has never happened before. I hope we can all be kind to one another and respect the rules put in place as a safety precaution, and not a violation of rights. In addition to that, finding new ways to handle tester items is a challenge for retailers, but I’ve seen some very innovative and clever methods from folks on the frontlines. I’m confident stores will find ways that ensure their staff is comfortable and safe while still delivering the service their guests deserve.” — Kim Scott Faubel, COTR (B-Vibe, Le Wand)
Q: What’s the most common question you anticipate as customers re-emerge?
“Product questions: What new items can I introduce into the bedroom? With more people at home, intimacy is likely either stale or on an upward trajectory. (We’ve heard both equally.) Domestic partners are looking for new things to try in the bedroom, so retailers should be prepared to offer unique product suggestions and take the opportunity to upsell add-ons/impulse purchases that anyone can use together.
“Also: consumers are more frequently asking, ‘Is it safe to have unprotected/sex?’ Up until very recently, the possibility of spreading COVID-19 through sexual transmission was unknown due to little/no evidence. However, new studies are showing that a percentage of men who were being treated for COVID showed evidence of SARS Co-V2 (the genetic material that causes the COVID virus), in semen.
“While medical experts are saying there’s no need to freak out yet, due to the ever-evolving and unpredictable nature of coronavirus, anything is possible at this point.” — Casey Murphy, Rock Candy/Bedroom Products
“Consumers are asking ‘What do I do if you close again?’ and from stores, the question I get is ‘Do you have stock and how fast can you ship?” — Pat, ECN
“Most frequently asked question for us right now is about our hand sanitizer.” — Briana Watkins, M.D. Science
“So far, our customers are curious to know how we will keep them safe during lifestyle events.” — Kimberly Petersen, The Deviate Network
“How is this going to be different, how are we going to instill a sense of safety and security with our stores which is why we have come out with the PuriSpray-mounted dispensers.” — Keith Caggiano, Rock’N Products
“Can we have longer terms on past due invoices.” — Rebecca Weinberg, XR Brands
Q: Has there been a specific product you’ve seen dominate sales during self-isolation?
“When lockdown restrictions began taking place throughout the country, we launched ‘The Sex Must Go On’ campaign, because we knew that the quarantine would have an impact on sexual activity — whether an increase in sex and/or masturbation with people home more; and the desire to explore more for partners who shifted toward focusing more on sexual intimacy. for just about everyone. We created multiple versions of $35 isolation/quarantine sex toy kits for all individuals and couples, geared towards any gender and/or experience level. We included three items in each, and set an extremely affordable price point to encourage curious customers to give sex toys a shot by taking the guesswork out of ‘What should we buy?’ as opposed to relying on individual vibrators or bullet vibes to sell on their own.” — Casey Murphy, Rock Candy/Bedroom Products
“Self-care products and lubricant.” — Rebecca Pinette-Dorin, Exsens
“Hand sanitizer.” — Briana Watkins, M.D. Science
“Masks and PuriSpray hand sanitizer.” — Keith Caggiano, Rock’N Products
“Hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, stripper poles, dildos.” — Rebecca Weinberg, XR Brands
“KN95 masks, gloves, lube.” — Curtis Thompson, Sport Fucker