Is mainstream retail the new go-to place for adult toys?
Articles began appearing about a decade ago about sex toys finding their way to the online sites of Walmart and drug chains as the Fifty Shades of Grey book series was topping best-seller lists worldwide.
Sleekly designed and packaged intimacy items have also been drawing attention over the last decade with Maude, Tenga, Dame and Crave among the recent crop of trendy brands in the space. Brookstone was among the first retailers to carry Lelo in 2012.
With the pandemic, however, heightened attention has been given to mental wellness, and that has extended to sexual wellness, prompting department stores to position such items alongside other beauty and self-care offerings.
“People are spending more time, energy and disposable income on their own wellness, so it was natural that this expanded to sexual wellness,” Elizabeth Miller, VP in charge of cosmetics at Bloomingdale’s, told the New York Times. “It’s evolved so much from what it used to be maybe 10 or 15 years ago to be much more approachable.”
Gwyneth Paltrow and her wellness company, Goop, have also been credited with reducing the social stigma around sex toys.
Brands have updated their messaging and packaging to position such adult-oriented products around health and wellness. Email pitches frame such categories as “intimate care” or “sexual wellness,” and the items are often referred to as “pleasure products” or “sexual wellness tools.”
So far, the upscale department stores and Sephora are only offering sexual wellness products online. Purchasing such items can be intimidating and many consumers prefer a discreet online purchase. Urban Outfitters and Madewell are also only selling intimacy products online.
Walmart began selling the PlusOne premium sex toy range inside stores in 2018, and intimacy products can be found inside stores at Target, CVS, Walgreens and similar chains. Last year, Nordstrom sold intimacy products, along with lingerie, loungewear and body care, at 10 stores as part of a “Self Love” pop-up.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has the sexual wellness trend opened up a big opportunity for department stores and beauty chains as well as a bigger one for mass and drug store chains? Is there still a stigma to selling such items for mainstream chains?