Is it easier to sell a brand, or should you have a large variety.
In the sex toy industry, there are many different types of products, and each product comes in various shapes and sizes. Unless you’re a super-mega-store, you couldn’t possibly keep all of these products in stock.
Unfortunately, that means someone has to miss out. As a retail owner, do you provide generic products that people have come to expect in an adult shop? Maybe you should concentrate on taking over a particular niche? Or perhaps you should try and have all of your bases covered with a tiny range of everything? Either way, there will always be someone who wants something you don’t have in stock, or of a different size.
Chi Chi LaRue, born Larry David Paciotti, may have the answer to that question.
As a well know porn director and personality who is familiar with both sides of the porn industry (straight and gay), she has gained insight into the world of pornography marketing that she has taken to her business ‘Chi Chi Larue’s’.
“Basically I’m a brand,” she said. “When we opened the store in West Hollywood, because of my notoriety in the gay community, calling it anything other than ‘Chi Chi LaRue’s’ wouldn’t have been a good idea.”
Because of her incredible popularity, Chi Chi is able to sell only the videos she produces in her shop. Although, despite her producing prowess, her biggest retial sellers are dildos modelled from male porn stars Aron Ridge, Adam Killian, Brent Everett, and Johnny Hazzard. This further cements her ‘brand’ mentality, and seems to be working out for her in strides.
California Exotic Novelties, president and CEO, Susan Colvin, seems to completely agree with Chi Chi’s mentality saying a brand name could help drive a product.
“We’ve found that a big brand name, like COLT, has a bigger impact on sales,” Colvin said. “People recognize the iconic name in male entertainment and that’s ultimately what helps propel them to make a purchase. That coupled with offering high-quality, durable, reliable products, is why COLT Gear is a winner.”
Chi Chi is completely within the gay community, as a necessity to survive when just starting out.
“When I got into the business 30 years ago you had to deliver your promotion to people to see it. You would go to gay bars,” she said. “Now it’s like lube companies are sponsoring big gay parties, cock ring manufacturers. They’re all jumping on that bandwagon.”
Susan Colvin is once again on the same brain-waves as Chi Chi. She believes getting your product in front of the audience is of prime importance.
“Our participation in Pride events happens through the support of our customers,” she said. “We partner with them, since ultimately, the consumer awareness and sales, will be driven to their location.”
Although Chi Chi’s products are firmly planted in the gay community, she admits that women are certainly interested in her products. They like her goods to the extent that Chi Chi has altered some of her packing to include the words “for her”, preventing any alienation of her customers.
“In fact, a very, very large portion of our customers are women,” she said. “There are so many fan girls out there for gay porn stars, it’s so funny.”
Rob Reimer, vice president of marketing and sales for Perfect Fit, is on a mission to ensure that none of his customers miss out, going as far as holding meetings and focus groups to design packaging that is inclusive of everyone.
“We don’t want to alienate anybody. You’re not going to see pictures of gay porn stars on our packaging, that might scare a straight guy away,” Reimer said.
“We have products that are really popular with straight couples. More than half of what we sell is bought by straight people.”
For example, Perfect Fit sells a penile extender Reimer said has been very well received among heterosexual couples.
“The ‘Fat Boy’ is really popular in the straight world,” he said.
Larry Garland can be considered the polar opposite of Chi Chi LaRue, as he has jumped from product to product as the market changed, jumping on trends, profiting, then moving on as the public interest changed. Eldorado, Garland’s company, started by selling Native American jewellery to record stores back in the 1970’s. When business dried up (Kmart started selling knock-offs), he started selling bongs and smoking paraphernalia in what he called a “head shop”.
After The War on Drugs, he jumped trend again and purchased a line called Kama Sutra.
“It’s been a good run, and it’s been a lot of fun,” he said.
Garland was raided by the government in 1991, thinking he was still selling bongs. After this mistake was cleared up, Garland went into full swing, appealing to as many markets as possibly could.
“We target several markets during the year — Valentine’s Day, bachelorette, Halloween — we target as many things as we see a match in,” he said. “The Pride catalog went out on April 4.”
Although, it pays to be aware of the community you’re targeting, as Josh Ortiz, an accounts manager at Eldorado knows all about.
“The LGBT market is a strong one — and a retailer that can cater to the community in a discreet, professional and informative way is going to win out every time against a retailer that is uninformed on the LGBT market, trends and needs,” Ortiz said.