(Note: This story appears in the October 2021 issue of Storerotica Magazine)
*Story by Larry Kaplan
Fatigued by the “same old, same old,” Angela Bernardo sought a career change. Sixteen years later, she still revels in the novelty of working adult retail for GigglesWorld.
In 2005, with seven-plus years of retail drug store management experience under her belt, Angela Bernardo was tired of the same old, same old, and ready for a career change to something different.
She knew GigglesWorld owner Tim Serino through a mutual friend and was a regular customer at Serino’s Giggles adult retail stores. She saw the stores as fun, vibrant and exhilarating, very different from the drug stores she’d worked in. Bernardo and Serino got to talking one day 16 years ago. Before she knew it, Bernardo had made the career change she longed for by jumping from shopper to management of one and eventually all eight Giggles and Happy Habit stores. She’s never looked back.
SE: Can you contrast your time with GigglesWorld to your time managing a national drug store chain?
BERNARDO: Since I started with GigglesWorld, every day was something new and never the same. That’s was what I’ve really liked about this job and probably why I’ve stayed so long. I love this company and this industry, and I’m not planning on going anywhere.
SE: What do you look for in staff?
BERNARDO: We like hiring outgoing personalities, people able to motivate customers but with a sensitive side as well. We see many first-time adult store customers who might not know exactly what they want. So our employees must be sensitive to that to approach somebody quietly and ask, is there anything I can help you with, rather than being loud and boisterous as I’ve seen in some other stores.
Some customers know exactly what they want; they’re easy to help. They’re fun because they’re more open; you can have one-on-one conversations with them. It’s kind of nice to have that. I do work in the stores a lot, and I’m able to talk to customers. I have regulars in every location.
SE: What’s your target audience for the Giggles stores? And how are you attempting to lure more of these potential shoppers in?
BERNARDO: Our primary target is couples. We want an environment where they feel comfortable coming in. We don’t want them going into a seedy joint where they’re worried about the creepy guy in the corner.
We love female shoppers, too — the mom that’s coming in when her kids are in school. But we have such a wide array of customers. We also see the younger teens that just turned 18. They’re so excited to go into Giggles for the first time because we’re the only store in the area like this.
SE: What are some of your best-selling products, sectors, or categories of products?
BERNARDO: In the past year, we’ve started moving a lot of the Satisfyer-type items. Those have been really consistent. We also move a lot of basic run-of-the-mill dildos. They’re never going to die. We also sell a lot of male masturbators. We have them in ranges from really affordable up to the $100-plus items. You have to have that little bit of everything for everybody. Not everybody comes in with $200 to spend. Having those lower-end products helps bring people back because they know besides the less expensive stuff, they can come back later and buy something more expensive when they have more money.
“Since I started with GigglesWorld, every day was something new and never the same. That’s was what I’ve really liked about this job and probably why I’ve stayed so long. I love this company and this industry, and I’m not planning on going anywhere.” — Angela Bernardo
SE: In terms of brand awareness, do you find customers are loyal to certain companies? Are they shopping by brand name, affordability, or both?
BERNARDO: It’s more based on affordability, but I do notice that some brands move a little more. I think it has to do with packaging, but it also goes by employee recommendation. I don’t see many people asking for specific brands, other than Satisfyers and Air-Pulse, because there aren’t many of those on the market. But when an employee asks a customer what exactly they are looking for, they can get an idea of what products to recommend. Those are the products that move the most. You get employees that develop favorite products, by buying and using them themselves. Or when they test them at the register before the customer leaves, they get to see what the product does before 20 more customers ask for it, so those move faster. There’s a specific bullet that my employees all love. It’s not the most popular one available, but we sell a ton of them because we know how it works and that it’s one of the strongest ones out there. And that’s what people look for when they are asking for a super strong bullet.
SE: So that trust relationship the customer develops with certain employees is really critical?
BERNARDO: Absolutely, especially for products when people are out of their element. You go into Walmart, and you know you’ll buy Advil because you’ve used that product a million times; you know it works. But at an adult store, you’re often a fish out of water; sometimes you need that employee guidance to help find what products might best fit your needs.
SE: How has your marketing changed in the 16 years since you started?
BERNARDO: When I started, I didn’t pay much attention to it; that was more of a corporate function. But over the years, I’ve heard lots of radio advertisements, and increasingly, radio ads are something customers compliment us on because they’re always funny, cute, and just a little risqué, but not to the point where little kids will understand. They’re very precisely done. We also always have Valpak mailers out for both Giggles and Happy Habits. And people do come in with those coupons.
Many people come in asking for an item they saw on our website, so the internet is definitely important. But with locals, I think radio is super important.
SE: When you’re at trade shows, with so much product emerging, what types of toys grab your attention first? How do you sift through everything to ensure you’re realizing ROI?
BERNARDO: I go by what employees report their customers are looking for. We have that conversation often with staff. Bondage products are always big. They’re looking for specific items, so we’ll try to find a little bit of everything. When it comes to toys, I’ll sit there and sample the newest stuff. I won’t necessarily buy every item on the table, but definitely, the ones I think would move well for us. A lot of vendors also mail us testers, asking if we want to carry the items.
SE: What significant changes have you seen in product popularity and industry trends since you started?
BERNARDO: Definitely the rechargeable factor. When I started 16 years ago, maybe five products on the market were rechargeable. Today, at least 60% of products are rechargeable. I think customers appreciate that. Dealing with batteries is always a pain. And not just with toys, but every industry. Our own vibe line, Pink Vibes, is all rechargeable.
And medical grade silicone is very important to customers. We don’t sell as much of the jelly and rubber as we used to. Customers tend to mention that they’d like something silicone because they know it’s hygienic, easy to clean, and lasts longer.
SE: What’s your biggest pet peeve when buying product?
BERNARDO: The packaging. Sometimes, when purchasing a product on a wholesale or distributor site, you don’t get to see the packaging, just an image of the product itself. And when it arrives, it’s very disappointing. Packaging is critical when it comes to displaying merchandise. Sometimes when a product doesn’t have specific aspects in packaging, like if it lacks hang tabs, it drives me crazy, unless it’s a luxury item you want to feature in a case. But for simple things, I’d love to see hang tabs, and lots of companies don’t have those. I like to see a nice bright, clear package that shows what the item is.
SE: If you could speak with industry distributors and manufacturers, what would you advise them to help themselves and get more customers through your doors?
BERNARDO: I would tell them, definitely consider the number of products you sell versus the quality of your products. You don’t have to carry 10,000 items. Maybe have 5,000 really good ones. There are so many products out there. We’ll order something, get it one time, and not to be rude, but it can be a piece of garbage, and we’ll never order it again after that. And there’s a lot of products out there like that. So maybe consider quality?
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 e-mail email@example.com.