Filling the gaps
The ‘try before you buy’ model is important for most of the retail industry, yet for obvious reasons that largely bypasses the adult toy sector. But now an improvement in manufacturing technology means items are more or less ensured to be safe and of top design.
“Leading manufacturers around the world are now producing the most beautiful toys,” says Relph. “I suppose from a manufacturer perspective, and if you are producing any consumable good, if you don't keep raising the bar, you get left behind. I think regardless of what consumer products the manufactures in are, I think they’re always striving to create a beautiful product.”
Continuously trying to keep up with changing consumer demands is no new thing, but for the adult toy category, a good product often means repeat business and with that, more competition.
“You've got big manufacturers in Europe and in America that are competing for a slice of the consumer brands, or the consumer's pocket,” says Relph. “So, they're really looking for how they can ensure that their brand is top of mind for the consumer.”
The competitive landscape for adult toy stores differs from traditional retail in that normal advertising channels have more restrictions surrounding the promotion of their stores or products. Licensees must abide by strict conditions that commonly require premises to be at least 200 metres from schools and churches, and are restricted to age 18 onwards.
Yet apart from that, its biggest competition is shared with traditional retailers – international counterparts.
“What we've seen is that markets now have no boundaries,” Relph says. “So, you're not only competing with people in your local market. Nowadays, you’re competing on a global scale regardless of whether your business is, in fact, global or not. So, it has got more competitive because the boundaries of those markets have disappeared.”
This increase in competition has failed to slow down the Adult Toy Megastore, which, according to Relph, sends out about 20,000 items a month from its warehouse filled with over 10,000 different SKUs.
“We’re still seeing a strong growth curve at the moment. I think it’s an ever-increasing spectrum of things that people are buying. Consumers are also shopping differently, they won't have one standard item for life – they’ll have a fleet - It's a process that people go through now, just like they might buy shoes.”
Relph highlights the importance of good customer service, no matter the industry you’re in, and no matter if you’re pureplay or bricks and mortar, “I think regardless of what industry you’re in you have to step up and play the best game you can play because that is what the consumers are demanding.,” she says.
“Regardless of what industry you’re in, it’s about providing the customer with what they want and being really passionate about how you do that. Whatever customers are purchasing I think they expect the same thing, they expect the shopping experience to be top notch. And that’s what I think as a business you have to strive to do.”