(Note: This story appears in the April 2022 issue of SE Magazine)
Former artist Tania Moaton seized an opportunity to challenge herself in adult retail while maximizing her prior expertise.
Tania Moaton, the Pleasure Chest’s Chicago GM for the past six years, came to the retailer with a diverse artistic and retail background. Moaton is a jewelry designer and metalsmith who also had nine years of management experience with art materials, retail and fashion and apparel stores before joining the Pleasure Chest.
Six years ago, despite the lack of long-term security that comes with an artist’s existence, Moaton had decided to leave retail. Then she saw an ad that Pleasure Chest was hiring a Chicago GM, and her plans changed.
“I realized adult was a new area of retail to me that would allow me to use my expertise while learning something new and challenging myself,” Moaton says.
Storerotica Magazine’s Larry Kaplan spoke with Moaton about running Pleasure Chest in a bustling hub like Chicago.
SE: I understand your store has recently moved to a new location in Chicago’s trendy Bucktown neighborhood?
MOATON: Yes, it was a very exciting move last year after being in the famed Lakeview Boystown area for about 15-16 years.
SE: Are you still discovering a new clientele at your Bucktown location?
MOATON: It’s a younger, more varied clientele from all over the city. It’s this huge, busy shopping district with more foot traffic that’s bringing numerous different demographics together.
SE: What do you look for in potential staff?
MOATON: I look for someone open-minded who can gel with the other staff through a shared passion for learning about sex toys and talking about them, understanding human sexuality and our customers on a spectrum.
“Talking price in a store isn’t comfortable for some people. Not everybody sees their budget as higher or lower; they may know the range of available products before coming in. It’s about being delicate. Reinforcing that, whatever their price point, they’re still our customers; we appreciate them and wouldn’t be here without them.” — Tania Moaton
SE: What are some of the significant changes in product popularity and industry trends you’ve seen over time?
MOATON: I’ve noticed more focus on understanding sexual anatomy and creating toys that actually fit body parts. Vibrators and dildos are changing shapes and offering different colors. There’s also a considerable focus on Bluetooth toys.
SE: What’s the best part of your job, and what’s the most challenging part?
MOATON: The best part is connecting through sex education, in workshops, and sales. We must be sex educators, knowing how to reach people and expose them to all the options. A store like ours with a wide selection can be overwhelming to some. I’ve also enjoyed developing a staff of sex educators who are more than just salespersons.
The most challenging part is when some folks come in with certain inappropriate expectations. We must establish and communicate boundaries with those customers in a professional way.
SE: What changes have you seen over time that have had the most significant effect on your store’s operation?
MOATON:: We’ve shifted focus to online and social media because not everyone can physically access our stores. If you don’t live in New York, Chicago, or LA and aren’t coming, you won’t visit our stores but you can still connect with us. So we had to be flexible and look at how people are responding online as well — and connecting with customer needs, not necessarily in the store. In addition, supply chain shortages have been pretty challenging for all businesses.
SE: What do you see as the keys to being profitable in 2022 — especially with online nipping at your heels? And how do you counteract showrooming?
MOATON: I’m not upset at it; as a consumer, I’ve done the same thing; it’s just part of your research. We offer a loyalty program and in-store events, though they haven’t resumed yet, post-COVID, but we still have online workshops and content. People appreciate the opportunity to connect to a sex educator to talk about things at an actual boutique with excellent customer service. So we’re planting those seeds so that they want to return and support the business.
SE: What do you consider the greatest existential threat to adult retail today?
MOATON: A big challenge is prioritizing building community within the adult retail industry as a community and the adult industry in general. Where there’s community, we’re stronger together. Another threat is external things outside our community, like laws that we see getting passed. Without getting super political, we’ve seen a lot of change for us as to how we can access information from adult performers, sex educators, or even vendors. A lot of that comes from misguided legislation. And there’s a lot of shame in general that comes with sex that people don’t know what to do with sometimes.
SE: How do you cater to both clientele sets, high and low price points?
MOATON: First, just having a selection of quality products, including at a lower price; and also our ability to more effectively talk to customers about price points. Today, there are more intro lines of toys to acquaint people with brands, so you don’t have to spend $150 to experience their creations. I liken it to fashion in my apparel retail days. You’ll see higher fashion brands have like Marc Jacobs have something more affordable.
Talking price in a store isn’t comfortable for some people. Not everybody sees their budget as higher or lower; they may know the range of available products before coming in. It’s about being delicate. Reinforcing that, whatever their price point, they’re still our customers; we appreciate them and wouldn’t be here without them — and providing the same luxurious treatment, no matter their budget.
Larry Kaplan has been the Legal Correspondent for ED Publications for 21 years. Mr. Kaplan is a broker in the sale and purchase of adult retail stores and adult nightclubs and the Executive Director of the ACE of Michigan adult nightclub state trade association. Contact Larry Kaplan at 313-815-3311 or email email@example.com.