CNBC ran a story last week that got lots of clickity clicks and more than one interested “Hm” of approval as a result of its headline:
Sex Toy Sales Surge
Yeah, OK. But uh, why? And sez who?
The findings came from a single source, a so-called online sex toy distributor named Paris Intimate which, unfortunately, none of my cronies in the adult industry has ever heard of.
(Looks like someone's got a good PR rep, or knows someone at the CNBC news desk who'll publish anything with the key word of “sex” in the headline.)
So we figured we'd ask some of the top businesses in the sex toy world – one sex toy manufacturer, one online retailer, and one national store chain – what they think the economy has done for sex toy sales.
SexToy.com might be the largest online retailer of sex toys and products related to insertion, O-faces and orgasms – they have more than 40,000 toys in their database alone.
Founder Dave “Sex Toy Dave” Levine (you may know him from such lame reality shows as “Millionaire Matchmaker”) says that though the recession has positively affected his business, he's not 100-percent convinced it's people's lack of funds and corresponding depression that's responsible for the sudden onslaught of strap-on sales.
“Sex toys are not required items, and sales went down at first when the recession hit,” Levine said. “Many manufacturers, distributors and retailers went out of business. Products these days are higher quality and I think it's just because more people are buying them.”
Kristen Tribby, director of creative development and strategy at national retail chain The Pleasure Chest, also saw sales take a bit of a slump when the economy took a dive – and no one was surprised.
“Last year we did experience some flat months, but that was to be expected with the recession,” Tribby said. “But this year, in NYC and L.A., we have seen a significant increase in sales but I think that is in part due to our in-store upgrades and free workshop program. Chicago sales are not as impressive but I think that the Midwest is a little slower to recoup after a recession.”
Tribby believes that people not only have warmed up to the idea of sex toy shopping and experimentation – regardless of whatever financial crisis the country is in – but their search for cost-effective and, most importantly, free activities to keep life on a budget interesting.
“Did the bad economy help to fuel people's passion for a more lively sex life? I think so!” Tribby said. “When consumerist culture takes a hit folks tend to look for things that are real – whether that be educating themselves or simply connecting with others. People who aren't getting their fix in retail therapy look elsewhere. Many of our customers come to our store because we have an immersive retail environment. So instead of spending $150 or more on a date night, you can come to any of our stores, attend a workshop for free, and go home with a few tips and tricks and maybe a product or two that will help them explore.”
Sex toy manufacturer and marketing machine The Screaming O founded its business model in part on the idea that though adult products may be sorta kinda recession proof, a company's designs (and prices) have to speak to a broad-enough audience to assure that, should things start going down the tubes, you still can appeal to someone with money in their pockets.
“Regardless of the recession, people are becoming more in tune with what's going on in their – and everyone else's – sex lives, and it's no longer a deep dark secret to want or own a cockring or vibrator,” The Screaming O partner Keith Caggiano said. “People are taking more 'staycations' and creating their own adventures together at home, so we make sure we've got products for all sexual walks of life – from butchers, to bakers to candlestick makers.”
And the fascinating thing? The types of sex toys SexToy.com's Levine says have become more popular as the economy's worsened aren't your typical rabbit vibe or massage candle.
“Vibes under $15 are always top selling, but the eco-friendly and luxury toys are selling really well,” Levine said. “It's probably just timing, as before the recession these high-end high-quality products weren't as rampant on the market. And believe it or not, the Feeldoe and its imitators are up there, too.”
What's the Feeldoe? Whelp, it's a strap-on that doesn't have straps. You insert the vibrating bulb into the vagina, position it comfortably on the G-spot, squeeze your kegels and then go to town on your partner.
And would you be surprised to learn that the Feeldoe is quite popular with the menfolk? Straight menfolk? Yup, butt sex and other anal activities between consensual men and women has taken off, with more men attending rear-end-related workshops (and likely even more using Google).
More power to you! What better way to relax the mind, ease the muscles, and pass free time between unemployment checks than coming all over the place?