Adult Bliss Erotic Boutique- South Australia

By on October 26, 2018

When and how did you first start your involvement in adult retail?
My Mum (Jayne) and her partner (Mick) bought an adult store in Darlington SA back in 2010. Mum was in the lingerie business previously and Mick had always had an interest in adult retail, so when the opportunity came up they were quick to jump on board. After expanding to three stores (Darlington, Glen Osmond & Mooloolaba QLD) they eventually settled on the Glen Osmond location.

Earlier this year my partner Monique and I got the opportunity to purchase the business from Mick and Mum so they could pursue other ventures. Monique has a lot of experience is the retail industry working as a manager and sales associate in shoes and fashion across the country, so she knows a lot about merchandising and stock control, as well as customer engagement and keeping track of sales trends. She turned down a job at an adult store years ago thinking she was too shy and naïve for the industry! My (Simon) experiences mainly lie in the Hospitality Industry where I have had a successful career as a qualified chef. Between hospitality jobs and in my down time I would often come down to the shop to help out mum and her staff and found that I really enjoyed the work, and eventually decided to start working here full time when the opportunity came along. We are so stoked to be able to keep Adult Bliss as a family run business, and we hope we make Mick and Jayne proud.

Opening hours.
Our store is open from 11am – midnight 7 days a week and often open to 1am Friday and Saturday nights. As we are fairly new to being business owners we are generally here 5 -6 days a week ourselves. At the moment we are taking any opportunity to gain inspiration and grow on our brand and build our offerings, so we want to be in store as much as possible.

What do you love most about your adult retail business?
What’s not to love! Probably the best thing about working in this industry is the ability to help people, customers come into our store for all sorts of needs and underlying reasons, sometimes looking to rediscover themselves after a loss or break up, sometimes they have been referred by a health professional, and we know for a lot of people the idea of coming into this sort of store is quite daunting. We take our sex positive attitude and do our best to make our customers feel welcome, comfortable but most importantly empowered in their decision to open their minds and broaden their horizons for their sexual needs. The best part of this industry is watching customers like that leave with a feeling of personal confidence and strength they may not have had when they entered!

What are some of the best things your business has done?
As we are new to owning the store this question is a hard one to answer, I would say that we are mostly proud of creating an environment free from judgment and full of up to date knowledge. Our doors are open to people from all walks of life and we consider ourselves to be a safe space for both customers and anyone working in the industry as well. We have a lot of plans to build on this ideal including using our upstairs space for safe sex workshops, body positive photo shoots and introduction classes for people interested in learning more about sexual health, body health, and even mental health. To kick this off we have recently been in contact with some sexologists and sex life bloggers in our local area to help us provide information to our customers and community. This is all still a work in progress but watch this space!

What are a few of the key variables in order of importance to ensure the best chance of success in adult retail?
We believe the most important ethos for success in adult retail is respect! Respect your customers, respect the community, respect others in the industry.

Encouraging positivity and education and making sure that the advice and products that you sell are right for your customers.

Profit never comes before customer satisfaction, because satisfaction in our industry has many different faces, which makes it so important to listen to what your customer actually wants.

What makes a great store?
That’s a tough one, we’ll try to keep this answer simple:
Understanding your customers needs! It’s so important in any industry to really engage with your customers to be able to provide what they’re after! If you have a café in the CBD and don’t serve coffee or quick pre-prepared lunch options, then you’re not going to do very well! It’s the same principle in adult retail, you need to read your customers, take note of what they want, and do what you can to make sure they get the advice and products that match their needs. For example, here in Glen Osmond we’re located on the outskirts of the eastern city suburbs and right at the bottom of the freeway to the Adelaide hills and rural Murray Lands; so we offer over the phone orders and shipping to customers in the more rural areas to the east, this means that they don’t have to make the long trip to the city but still have the advantages of a city located store with a large range of products.

What can you tell us about your store design and layout?
In total we have 200 square meters of floor space across two levels, with front and rear entry to the store (and yes, know how that sounds!). Most of our products are currently downstairs, with the floor space here separated into 3 distinct rooms: The toy room, the fetish room and the lube and lingerie room which is where you’ll find the counter. Upstairs is currently a work in progress, used mostly for storage and office space with a small selection of products on display. The layout now isn’t completely by choice, downstairs was set up this way due to the structure of the building but functions well as a segregated space. Upstairs has a lot of potential for change and we’re excited to make it a more useable space in the future.

How often would your business change a store layout or re-merchandise?
All the time! Its important to move items around the store to highlight different product ranges and keep the displays fresh as product lines sell down. We have several large led lit glass cabinets in our toy room and often change what we display in these cabinets to highlight new and interesting products, or products that we think might be going under our customers radar when they visit.

Does your business target a specific customer demographic?
Our customer base is probably more focused geographically than by demographics like age or gender or relationship status. Mostly we focus on servicing customers that don’t have ease of access to a well-stocked adult store due to their location, outside of Adelaide there aren’t a lot of stores in the smaller country towns and distance is also a factor. We are fortunate enough to be located on a main road near a very busy intersection, so luckily store awareness isn’t something we struggle with. Moving forward we plan to focus on marketing to customers and communities that might be considered a little more niche that maybe don’t know that we stock products that would interest them.

What proportion of your sales is repeat business vs new?
We have a very high repeat customer rate, we find people are shocked to find a store like ours that is well lit, clean and nicely presented so they tend to keep coming back! We do however often have people who have never been in an adult shop coming in saying that we were recommended by a friend, which is such a great thing to hear!

Staff training?
We often have our sales reps come in whenever they get a chance to train and update our staff on their product knowledge. We are very fortunate to have a staff member Aishah, who has been working for Adult Bliss for nearly 7 years. Aishah does a great job of keeping herself, our staff and our customers up-to-date on all the latest trends and product safety and knowledge.

If we look at your adult retail business 5 years ago versus now, what changes did you see and how have you responded to them?
Stores have been evolving for quite some time, the traditional seedy adult bookstores are fading into the background and adult retail standards are now on par with any other retailer selling everyday products. Probably the biggest change in our industry though has happened at a political and a social level, people are finally starting to open up to the idea that sex and by extension sexual aids and accessories are about more than just quick jollies, long term happiness and sexual health are at the front of people’s minds. Conversation is the single most powerful tool we have to make change and I think the conversation has begun. We are seeing more and more people coming in that have never been in an adult store before (which is great!) but they come in with fascination and excitement rather than the awkwardness and even fear that we used to see. People feel more comfortable expressing their needs and interests because the conversation has started on our TV’s, in our media and with our friends and family, so it’s not as taboo as it once was. I guess we have responded to this the only way we can… by listening and contributing to the conversation. As far as products are concerned we have seen a much higher push for quality and functionality, people are way more educated with this stuff than they used to be, so we have been increasing our high-end product ranges over time but also trying our best to find quality, safe and well-made products in the lower pricing brackets so that there is something for everyone.

What categories of product do you carry?
Our categories are divided by use, we have vaginal vibrators & bullets, static dongs & strapons, anal & prostate stimulators, strokers & penis pumps, cock rings & sleeves which is about 50% of our store. We carry a vast range of Lubricants with as many options as we can fit on a single wall. We have a small lingerie and men’s wear section with a focus on hard to find sizes which is about 20-25% of our floor space (we are planning to expand on our clothing and wearables soon), and finally our fetish room is split up into leather gear, medical play and restraint kits taking up about 25% of our floor space.

What are some of your best-selling brands?
Our best-selling brands would have to include System Jo Lubricants and body products, We-vibe, IMtoy, Palm power and Body Wand, Doc Johnson strokers, and King Cock dongs. We sell a lot of the NS Novelties range as well, they do some really great products that are well made and well packaged with a very reasonable price tag.

What makes a great brand?
A great brand stands by their product no matter what! They put the user first and focus on quality, health and safety. Take System JO for example not only do they try to use the best quality ingredients in their lubricants, but they do it with a customer focus, and they have a customer satisfaction guarantee! Again, it comes down to listening to your audience, people want to know that the products they are using are safe and are going to last!
What would be your sales mix of premium higher priced branded items vs other items.

60 – 40% with the higher end stuff selling better, again consumers are more educated than they used to be, and they know the brands like We-Vibe, The Rabbit Co, Womanizer, Bathmate, and Fun Factory stand by their well-made products, and this industry in one of the few where you can really say you get what you pay for.

How important is new product in a store?
New products are great! Our floor space is limited though so we have to carefully consider whether we can afford to clear the way for new lines because it usually means losing a different product range. This can be a great motivator to move on older stock, but we do try to avoid bringing in new products just because they’re new, especially if there aren’t any obvious improvements on quality or function. But if something is exciting and innovative it will always have a place in our store! Take the Womanizer and Satisfyers for example, that was a no brainer when they came out! IMtoy with their cute rose gold and soft pink design and app compatibility are so on trend from a fashion perspective, but the quality is there too. It’s also nice to have ranges that cater to different demographics (such as the leather community, medical play enthusiasts etc) if we know that there is a market for it, and in general new things keep it exciting for our regular customers too.

What trends has your business observed in adult pleasure products?
A big trend has been leaning towards unique styles, improved functionality and app compatibility. Gone are they days of the jelly see through C celled vibes, now rechargeable is big, remote access is big and app compatibility is big, but a toy still needs to look and feel good. I often think that pleasure objects are becoming a fashion industry of their own, like a hand bag or a nice pair of shoes, these “new gen” vibes are the kind of thing you can show your friends. Which again helps to keep that conversation I spoke of earlier going.

How does your business keep informed about adult pleasure products?
We find that our suppliers and reps are onto it and often come to us with new products, so half the work is done for us there. But we do a lot of our own research and tend to keep our ears and eyes out on social media, following bloggers and manufacturers to see what’s out and how it’s being received. Of course, publications like Synergy are always helpful too.

What have been some of the best -selling items of all time for your business?
First thing that comes to mind is We-Vibe, it’s consistent and to be honest it sometimes hard to keep up with demand. But Anal Fantasy and NS Colour Dongs have always been great sellers along with Tenga Eggs and Soft Cups.

What variables can ‘make’ or ‘break’ a product in a store?
The ability for customers to touch and feel stuff is a big help, we notice that products that have display models or even display windows in the packaging sell way better than those without. Even simple product placement, being somewhere eye catching and well displayed. As far as our decision to stock something regularly it’s all based on reliability, if we need to deal with returns or factory faults too often we just stop carrying the stock, we like customers coming back to our store, but not because something keeps breaking.

What promotional activity do you engage in?
In-store we stick with the tried and true tactics to promote products, sales and info, verbal communication direct to the customer, signage in the right spots, and we’ve got a bright LED display on our shop front. External promotion is tough in this industry, we have a semi-aggressive social media strategy that is very labor intensive due to Facebook and Instagram not allowing us to promote or boost posts. Google adwords is a great tool as well, so we do all our online marketing ourselves. Our focus moving forward is to build brand awareness and loyalty with our customers, we have a new loyalty system similar to many other retail outlets which is something customers have gotten on board with because it’s a system they already recognize and it helps us advertise our events and sales to customers with a genuine interest. We are also starting to do a lot of networking within our local industry, and with local groups and communities, and we’re hoping to one day even include other stores who are open to cross-promotion. Getting involved with local events and festivals is a great as well, we attended the recent SEXPO in Adelaide just as punters and it was so great meeting suppliers and reps face to face to chat about the future.

How do you view the trend toward online shopping and the changing role of the physical store?
Online shopping is a great way for people to have access to everything they need, especially people who might not have access to a store or certain products locally. We believe though that there is a personal touch this industry needs that can’t be offered online, many customers have questions that are surprisingly easier to ask face to face, and of course actually seeing and touching products in store is always preferable. Something good about online shopping though is it keep bricks and mortar retailers honest with their prices, people often look online but spend their money in store, so they already know how much things are worth when they come in.

What advice could you give someone intending to start in adult retail today?
Be open minded and accepting, shake off the preconditions that life has taught you and try everything (or as much as you’re comfortable with) at least once. Be prepared for some discrimination and seek out the industry Union for help accessing things you’ll need to start your business, EROS has been such a help to us. Get involved with your local community, you’re not just a shop owner! You’re an ambassador for our industry and for sexually minded people everywhere. Like any business you will have your ups and downs, be flexible and reactive where you have to be and be proactive as much as possible. Engage with your customers, learn their needs and wants and stay on top of what works for your store.
A Synergy interview with Founder/Managing Director Simon Mawson

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