In this SE Special Focus, we speak to retailers, vendors and distributors about how to best prepare for the upcoming holiday shopping season, including the hottest products that you’ll want to stock up on, as well as the unique challenges — and benefits — of the holiday rush.
(Note: This story appears in the October 2023 issue of SE Magazine)
he holiday season is always a crazy time of year, but especially for the retail world. As last minute gift-givers rush to finish their lists, store owners must expect the hottest trends in holiday gifts or suffer the loss of the biggest boom of the year with stocks running low on the shelves.
Of course, plenty of other chaos will come about in the heat of the stressful time.
“We find that a few days before Christmas we have a large rush of men shopping for lingerie — they will often buy the same piece in two different sizes — a small for their mistress and a plus-size for their wife!” wrote one retailer in the STOREROTICA holiday poll.
Another added, “No one looks at size labels on lingerie and they will bring up multiple sizes. Not once when pointed out did someone say it was for different people,” while still another echoed, “We notice a trend over the holidays where men will buy the exact same piece of lingerie in two sizes — one for their wife and one for their girlfriend. Guess which one typically gets the smaller size?!”
Sounds like intimate gifts could be a longer list for many customers. And, while our retailer poll found that almost 50% of customers across the country are coming in couples this season, plenty of retailers reported more of the diversity we know and love in this segment: including those shopping for the BDSM lifestyle, as well as single individuals gifting a beloved (or two or three) or maybe even gifting themselves this year.
One retailer said, “Based on gender cues for dress and behaviors, our clientele is 60/40 split masculine-leaning vs female-leaning. 10% is obviously couple, 20-70% more is suggested coupled, in which the partner may or may not be the person in the store with them. I would place about 60% being some form LGBT, though the QIA portion is harder to guess at.”
“It’s the time of year everyone shops!” another retailer added.
In addition to intimate gift-giving in the holiday season, there are sure to be gag gifts going around for the holidays, as well. Whether it’s a white elephant or a prank on a friend or family member, adult stores should be prepared for a boom in this segment.
“My favorite is when they have white elephant parties and all of the participants come into my store, and I have to keep everyone’s secrets and make sure they all don’t buy the same things,” shares a retailer.
It’s fun for retailers when customers take the opportunity to get creative, as several store owners noted.
“One couple purchases a dildo each year and selectively hides it somewhere in the picture used for their holiday greeting photo card that they then send out to all their friends and family,” a retailer shares.
Nenna Joiner, whose adult store Feelmore was nominated for the 2023 STOREROTICA Award for Independent Retailer of the Year, shares, “I spoke to a customer last night who came in last year to buy all our Playboys that we had. We had quite a few. He also took home most of our boob mugs and butt candles. He just told me last night that he brought them to his family’s holiday party and they were all fighting over everything. And so you know, it’s really nice to hear that no one was intimidated. We look forward to providing more of that fun. It’s one thing to bring in sex toys, but it’s another thing to bring in coloring books, candles and things that are risky or x-rated, in a way — apparel, vintage or calendar. A vibrator is very intimate for people, but to have another kind of gift from a sex shop is really a fun party idea.”
Amongst these shared stories, surely much more occurs behind the scenes at adult retail stores. As Fernando Martinez, Manager of the New Orleans location of Romeo and Juliets, a nominee for the 2023 STOREROTICA Award for Retailer Chain of the Year, puts it: “We have so much insanity happen in the holiday season, but what happens at Romeo and Juliet’s stays at Romeo and Juliet’s!”
With all this craziness, retailers are surely wondering what they can do to get ahead of it? The industry has spoken, and STOREROTICA shares all of the insight in this Special Focus: Just hear those registers Jingling!
SE readers’ top products to keep on-hand (think: butt stuff)
“Routinely, we definitely stock CalExotics, as well as COTR, which is Le Wand, B-vibe and all the massagers,” says Loretta Goodling, buyer for Excitement, another nominee for the 2023 SE Award for Independent Retailer of the Year. “Magic Wand, Fun Factory has a really great new wand that I think is going to do well for the holidays. It’s called the VIM. I’m excited about that. We also stock a surplus of attachments for wands. People love attachments, so I definitely want to make sure I have a larger selection for the holidays than I do during the year.”
“We stock a wide range of high-quality and body-safe brands,” says Searah Deysach, owner of Early to Bed, another nominee for the 2023 SE Award for Independent Retailer of the Year. “Holidays are always a good time for things like We-Vibe and Magic Wands, toys that we feel really confident that a wide range of folks are going to enjoy, and which have that sort of extra special holiday kind of quality, especially in price.”
“Vibrators are always our bestsellers,” adds Deysach. “But we see a lot more people gifting vibrators to their friends or to their lovers in the holiday season. We seem to have a lot of people who go to holiday gift exchanges that involve sex toys, so vibrators are always really hot, especially things that are cute, that maybe you’re buying for someone and you want it to be a little bit like sucky, ducky kind of thing, or the rose — stuff like that, that’s cuter and more giftable and not quite as embarrassing to open in front of other people. And then again, butt stuff. We’ve been in a butt-stuff high since COVID. So we’re really looking at nice, remote control vibrating butt toys. I know that seems random, but I feel like that’s going to be a hot item this year.”
Deysach is not the only one who thinks “butt stuff” is in this year.
“Last year 2022 one of the most popular sellers was anything involving anal,” writes one retailer in the STOREROTICA poll. “Thicker lubes, butt plugs, prostate and strap-on harnesses.”
“Anal products and their lubricants,” a retailer shares in our SE poll, regarding their highest sellers in the holiday season. “I stock Sliquid.”
With the colder weather and that special feeling in the air, things are always a little extra sexy around the holiday time, and adult retailers are doing more than their part to make the good times last.
“Routinely, we make sure we are fully-stocked with all forms of male and female enhancements,” says Martinez of Romeo and Juliets. “That is our top seller. Our other hot products are the Metro brand which includes the UFO, rosebud and Cloud 9. This year we are including more mid-range priced products, like items from VeDO.”
High-end and specialty goods are also big sellers in the holiday season for those special someones — a gift that’s something out of the ordinary.
“I think the love inc is actually doing very well,” says Joiner of Feelmore. “The red is cute. It’s good for back-to-school, for college students, young adults. It’s very affordable. I’ve been really impressed with that line, not just when they first came out, but even since, they continue to create quality packaging that shows you what the product is, and also made the product really accessible with it being so small in your hand. I really appreciate that.”
SE readers predict what’s hot for 2023
Plenty of our polled retailers reported that TikTok-famed “rose” will be big this year.
“At the moment, the biggest seller would obviously be the rose or any variation of air pulsation, because it’s still so new and being talked about,” says Goodling of Excitement.
“Definitely all the new male roses that are out for penis owners also seem to be selling like crazy. There’s so much buzz around that. And a lot of kits — Edonista released some kits. They’re mostly bondage-related, but one looks like a purse, so it works well for those looking for higher-end gifts. I also like the wand and any type of body wand massager. I look for the packaging that’s colorful, quality and at a good price point, too. But fun first. And panties: couples or polyamorous people love the panties and anything with a remote. They’re more inclined to buy a pantie vibe or cock ring if it includes a remote. I think everyone feels more included.”
Some retailers aren’t so confident in what’s trending right now, and they aren’t sure what to keep ample supply of.
“I don’t know,” says Deysach of Early to Bed.” I feel like there’s some cool new stuff that I just saw at the [ANME] show in July that I’m kind of waiting to come out for. We continue to see an uptick in folks interested in kink, in particular, and so we’re really looking at what kind of giftable kink things would be good for beginners. I think that’s a lot of our clientele. We do some gift packages, gift kits that we put together ourselves. How can we give really like giftable, adorable kink stuff? And of course we are, as everybody is, really stocking up on hot pink items for an anticipated ‘Hot Barbie Christmas.’”
For those retailers who aren’t sure yet what to stock, STOREROTICA has compiled recommended products from some of the best-known vendors in the industry.
What are SE’s must-have holiday products to help provide a happy ending for 2023?
Our retailer poll reported that almost 20% of sales in the holiday season involves BDSM lifestyle products.
“Our recent launch of the Pivot Collection will be super hot this year, especially the 3-in-1 Play-pad,” says Nathan Hammerle, Marketing Director of Sportsheets. “While positioning products on their own are not new to the industry, our customizable and highly affordable collection will allow for consumers to feel that they are getting more bang for their buck in their gift giving. Whether it’s the Positioner, Positioning Bar or the Protector, they are all compatible with the 3-in-1 Play-Pad which pairs the user’s favorite vibrators and dildos with the positioning product of their choice. Its ability to be reapplied makes it versatile and customizable to the user’s needs, making it the perfect gift for your partner.”
“We think that our new Valkyrie Edition collection is going to be very popular (includes sex positioning furniture and Shapes like the Beso Bondage Chair, Scoop Rocker, Scoop Wedge Combo, Lyza Lounger),” says Joanne Griffin, Media Buyer and Copywriter of OneUp Innovations, Inc. “These pieces have touch fasteners and loop sides for adjustable, customizable bondage. We are launching our new collection of Liberator Leather products including body harnesses, cuff kits and masks. We just started offering the Fascinator Toy Pad, which is a tiny version of our bestselling Fascinator sex throw, perfect for protecting your nightstand from lube and used toys. Aside from the Valkyrie products, we also have new bondage options like the Bastion Stocks, the Steed Spanking Bench, and the Divan Daybed.”
“The holiday rush is so much fun and stressful at the same time,” says Denise Young, Blush Account Executive. “We have an item called the Temptation of Face Word Kit. It’s a suitcase that has a lock you can select your own code for. When you open the suitcase, it is a BDSM dream, especially for someone that loves to have everything matchy-matchy. It’s made from vegan leather, and it has a rose gold metal feature that is also nickel free, with a matching wristlet ankle restraint collar. It has a double bow that’s black with peach, as well as rose gold chains to match the wristlets. The kit comes with a slapper, a breathable silicone ball, a gag and a blindfold, all made of that soft vegan leather. It also comes with a bullet. Every piece has clips for attaching to the suitcase, so it’s great for someone who is super neat. It’s such a wonderful giftable item with an MSRP for about 260 bucks, so it’s not even going to break the bank.”
2. Remote control toys
“We’ve found that holiday shoppers tend to purchase premium gifts that can be used for a shared experience with their partner, or to elevate their loved one’s solo play,” says Stephanie Ingram, Marketing Manager, B2B Americas, Lovehoney Group. “One of our top-sellers, the Womanizer Wave, offers pleasure that’s hidden in plain sight, making it a truly unique gift this holiday season. The Womanizer Wave was created with bathroom fixture manufacturer hansgrohe and is the first ever showerhead designed for masturbation.
“Every holiday, we find that there is one category from We-Vibe that reigns supreme: the couples vibrator,” Ingram adds. Now celebrating it’s 15-year anniversary We-Vibe is unveiling a re-imagined couple’s vibrator line that caters to all types of consumers. Launched earlier this year, Sync Lite is an introductory couples vibrator that is app-enabled, splashproof and offered at a lower price compared to the feature-rich Chorus model. This year, we’re very proud to introduce Sync O, a revamped couples vibe built to stay in place during penetrative sex. The new O-shaped internal arm keeps the Sync O in place, no matter which position you are in.”
“We anticipate the Beat Line of remote control plugs to be a top seller this coming holiday season,” says Carly S., staff writer for Nasstoys. “Remote control toys have always been a captivating choice for gift-giving, and it’s clear that they continue to capture the imagination of people year after year. The prospect of exploring and controlling these toys adds an element of excitement and engagement that resonates with both singles and couples alike. The appeal of remote control plugs lies in the blend of technology and playfulness they offer. Affordability is also a key factor in driving holiday sales, and the Beat line offers this advantage. In a time when people are searching for thoughtful gifts that don’t break the bank, having products that offer both innovation and cost-effectiveness is a winning combination.”
“The holiday season is around the corner and Kiiroo has launched a few new items that will surprise even the most experienced sex toy users,” says Kate Kozlova, US Regional Sales Manager of Kiiroo. “I expect this holiday season for our new interactive suction device PowerBlow by Kiiroo to become our new bestseller worldwide. When we presented it at ANME July, we received such great feedback from our customers because of its price point, interactive features, travel friendly compact size and the amazing blowjob like sensation it provides!
“PowerBlow is a compact device that can be screwed on to the realistic Feel Strokers from Kiiroo to turn them into an interactive suction device. Our Feel Strokers are gaining popularity, however, the Feel Strokers themselves are not interactive, and ‘interactive’ is our core business here at Kiiroo. PowerBlow turns the regular Feel Strokers that are not powered into an interactive app-controlled suction device for only 69 USD. There is a big demand for a realistic stroker that does all the work for you, and that’s why our interactive stroking machine Keon has been our best-selling item for the past few years.
“As an interactive device, PowerBlow can be controlled via the FeelConnect app remotely, or in the same room, or connect to partner devices, or it can be synced to porn videos in 2D and VR where PowerBlow mimics the on-screen action or connected to webcam sites. PowerBlow is also available to purchase in a combo set with our first mouth stroker molded from adult starlet Victoria June, or separately to combine it with other compatible Feel Strokers from Kiiroo. We are 100% sure that this holiday season this item will be a perfect fit for the stores who are looking for innovation and cost effectiveness at the same time!”
4. Lingerie (of course!)
“We offer a diverse range of products that are perfect for gift-giving,” says Nichole Grossmann, Director of Marketing for CalExotics. “One collection that stands out for its glamorous appeal is Radiance. The Radiance collection is a line of fashion-forward playwear with a touch of sparkle. It is soft, luxurious and offers multiple size options, making it the perfect gift for anyone who loves to shine.”
5. Specialty products
“We anticipate a few of our items to do quite well and for different reasons,” says James Guo, Founder of Our Erotic Journey. “Sexy Pot is likely to sell out as it is perfect for the cannabis connoisseur and is a fun gift to give and receive. Additionally, anything from the Space Collection or new Lit Series of Products should prove to move quite well. Easy gifting.”
“In addition to the Radiance collection, we expect our Opal collection to be another top-seller this holiday season,” says Grossmann of CalExotics. “Opal embodies self-care, offering a range of extremely powerful yet discreet personal massagers. Due to the discreet shape, users can place Opal on their nightstand, and no one would ever suspect it is a massager. Opal makes an ideal gift for anyone who needs to prioritize self-care.”
“Another collection that I think is going to be really giftable is our OH MY gem Collection,” says Young of Blush. “We are going to be releasing our next six SKUs so there will be 12 SKUs in total. They are all nonrepresentational smaller vibes that are rechargeable, they’re safer, and they have these really beautiful gemstones on the bottom. And inside the packaging, it also comes with a beautiful velvety toy bag.”
Looking for stocking stuffer goodies? We’ve got you covered!
“Swiss Navy products always do well during the holiday season because of their convenient sizes – think, stocking stuffers!” says Briana Watkins, ACS, VP of Sales & Marketing for M.D. Science Lab. “I foresee our flavored products that remind consumers of the holiday season to be our top-sellers. Swiss Navy’s Cooling Peppermint Water-based Flavored Lubricant is always at the top of our Q4 bestsellers list, especially since the label mimics a candy cane.”
“Another exciting launch that is one of our highest anticipated products this holiday season is pjur INFINITY,” says Ingram of Lovehoney Group. “pjur INFINITY is a bedside table’s dream; packaged in a luxurious glass bottle. pjur INFINITY is indulgent, making it a perfect gift for your partner – or yourself!”
“What better stocking stuffer than one of our delightfully creepy crawly Creature Cock silicone dildos,” says Rebecca Weinberg, President of XR Brands. “Creature Cocks have been our hottest selling line of the year, and the collectability factor of the entire line will have them disappearing from shelves as the holiday rush ensues.”
“We are extremely excited to be introducing a new item just in time for the holidays – a special edition Holiday Penguin,” says Stephanie Trachtenberg, Director of PR & Marketing for Satisfyer. “Our existing Penguin has been a top seller, so we created a festive version, complete with a holiday hat and scarf making him even more adorable! Also building on our success, we expect our newest Pro 2 Gen 3 to thrill anyone that loves our cult classic, Pro 2. The new generation is full silicone for a sleek, silky touch. It also layers additional features like vibration and our Liquid Air Technology, which delivers a sensual surge through a thin membrane on an interchangeable head giving you the best of both worlds. Even better, we have a version of the Pro 2 Gen 3 compatible with our free Satisfyer Connect App. Overall, our Connect App products make the perfect gift, allowing endless customization and personalization.”
Distributors: What products and brands are you anticipating will be your hottest sellers this season?
“I am really excited about the Magic Wand Micro, that will be a wonderful stocking stuffer!” says Kim Maty, Entrenue Senior Sales Executive and Buyer. “Biird products are so beautifully packaged and are perfect for gift giving. For those wanting something shiny, the new Elements range is gorgeous with the stainless steel and stone pieces.
“Amazing bundles from Womanizer, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fun Factory and High on Love are all exciting options that offer a cost savings and take away the guess work of what to pair together,” Maty adds. “Twisted Wares, coloring books and the adorable Plushies from Shots make ideal White Elephant gifts for those that what something that’s a little more suggestive and playful. Eye of Love has also been a great success this year with the new Matchmaker scents, and their new packaging in the Classic scents makes those items even more exciting than before.”
“Everything is still coming up roses for any kind of rose product,” says Emily Pulaski, Eldorado Sales Account Manager. “In fact, I suspect roses will continue to gain market share throughout the new year. BDSM is also growing, as many retail stores are showcasing full rooms designed to replicate what customers may have seen on TV. I’m also seeing a big push for products that will fit well into Smoke Shops. Cannabis-themed novelty and pleasure products are all the rage, particularly as different states adopt both recreational and medical use laws. The most anticipated product by adult retailers is the Magic Wand Micro. All that classic Magic Wand power in an adorable size – it’s certain to become a bestseller.”
“In lingerie, our strong brands like Abierta Fina and Cottelli Collection will again sell very well,” says Björn Radcke, Head of Sales & Marketing (B2B) at ORION Wholesale. “In products, we expect good sales with our novelties such as the vibepad 3, a new development of the best-selling vibro-cushion that stimulates the clitoris, vagina and anus completely hands-free. Another highlight for the Christmas season will be our Rotating Vulva Massager by Belou.”
Retailers: How soon do you begin to prepare for the holiday season?
“I start thinking about it mid-summer and by September I’m going to have a game plan,” says Goodling of Excitement. “By September, I’ll have known at least an idea of the products I’m going to bring in that we don’t already have. If we have repeat customers coming in, even if they’re only coming once a quarter, we want something new to show them every time they come in, so I’m really focusing on that more now. And just making sure that we have a good variety of products.”
“I know that the answer should be like, August, but I would say, come end of September, beginning of October, I really start to have some space to focus on that,” says Deysach of Early to Bed. “I know what I should be doing, and then I know what I am doing. Yeah, it’s hard; especially with small businesses, we don’t have a dedicated buyer. So it all comes down to me to do most of that stuff. In my fantasy, some day, I’ll have enough space to dedicate more time to that, but for now, we just do the best we can with as much energy we have to put into planning.”
“I think we have to start now,” says Joiner of Feelmore. “I was talking to a lot of retailers during August, and many were experiencing low numbers. And so, going into the holiday season, you don’t want to buy too much, but you have to buy enough to keep the customers coming in, especially here in California. You just have to gauge it, you have to look into the numbers and really under-buy and oversell what you can get rid of instead of just buying everything.”
Retailers: What do you love most about the holiday season?
“The foot traffic and seeing everyone so willing to buy pleasure products for either themselves or a partner for a gift,” says Goodling of Excitement. “It’s empowering to see so many people buy gifts for pleasure.”
“Just the care and attention that people take into buying something for someone,” says Joiner of Feelmore.
“My favorite part of the holidays is spending time with family, the food and the traditions,” says Martinez of Romeo and Juliets. “Every year we do a gingerbread house contest with family. It’s a ton of fun!”
“To be perfectly honest, I love having a day off on Christmas where I am 100% sure that nobody expects me to return an email or a phone call!” says Deysach of Early to Bed. “And the store is closed, so I don’t have to worry about anything happening at the store. That to me is like the best Christmas gift. But also, I love just hanging out with my family, playing games, seeing our friends and everybody sort of slowing down for a minute or two. It’s the best day of the year.”
Happy holidays from STOREROTICA and good luck to all of our industry friends in managing the craziness of another annual holiday rush!