Max Black Retail

By on December 18, 2014

Company  :  Max Black

Established  :  2006

Head Office  :  Newtown, Sydney

Staff  :  >10

Stores  :  Large retail premises on King Street in Newtown

URL  :

What does a typical day at Max Black look like?

No two days are ever alike and every day is filled with genuine laughter. Our commitments to the store, our guests and our online customers are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg as our day also consists of the work we do with community groups, educators, health services and other businesses and brands in the industry. In addition to all of this we are continually producing workshops and events in-store and lending our support and knowledge to all sorts of professionals – for example our Rubber Room works with local stylists to dress everyone from models in magazines to X-factor contestants and celebrities.

If we look at your adult retail business in 2006 versus now, what changes did you see and how have you responded to them?

When we first started the world of adult retail in Australia was only just starting to see the emergence of women as the primary buyer of adult products, particularly in urban areas. We responded by reviewing and adapting the offering in store often so that the mix has changed along with the customer base. For example, we were the first store in Australia to have a 100% phthalate-free toy collection and that was in direct response to the concerns of women everywhere that products should be safe as well as sexy.

What is Max Black especially proud of?

We are especially proud of our work with ACON and local community groups over the years however some the brightest moments have been unexpected – our work with manufacturers to improve product quality (and how they are marketed) has been very rewarding. Winning Eros Shine Awards has been wonderful as there is nothing quite like being recognised by our peers and our guests for the way we do what we do.

What have been some of the best moments at Max Black?

Hosting amazing educators and personalities like Tristan Taormino, Stacey Demarco and Buck Angel have been a real privilege, as well as very enlightening.  That being said some of the best moments at Max Black are not so much company-related but people-focused – from that tentative first-time toy purchaser who becomes a confident, empowered and knowledgeable regular to the couple that is reigniting the spark 50 years after first meeting. We provide a space that gives people permission to open up and communicate and it’s always a pleasure to see couples reaching a greater level of personal intimacy because of their experience with us. To be invited into the private lives of so many different kinds of people and be a respected and trusted source of all things intimate, these are the best moments.

What are a few of the key variables in order of importance to ensure the best chance of success in adult retail?

  1. Customer Service.
  2. Customer Service.
  3. Customer Service.

What makes a great store location?

The best chance of success would be a position where you are a part of a vibrant mix with good foot traffic. Being a part of a mix that is about personal enjoyment and fulfillment will be important. What really matters is understanding your local community, responding to their needs and ensuring your store is relevant to the communities within your location.

Does Max Black target a specific customer demographic? How would you define your customer base?

Max Black has traditionally had a focus on meeting womens’ needs, however our store is located in Sydney’s vibrant Inner West and our customers come from all across the Sydney region so it is incredibly diverse. There is now doubt however that Max Black has a commitment to the finest quality products and that our selection is curated to ensure we offer our guests a collection they can trust – from entry-level to high end.

How important are sales staff?

Your staff are the first and usually the last impression your store makes on customers. Having the right team, with the right knowledge is core to any service-focused business.

What makes a great adult retail staff member?

Every store will require a slightly different kind of service professional but for Max Black it comes down to someone who has the mental bandwidth to understand what kind of role they are fulfilling. Beyond being well-presented, approachable and well-spoken the best adult retail staff are also intuitive, perceptive, sensitive, communicative and genuine. They must also have a fundamental passion for this industry, its products, and the impact they’ll be making on real people.

What do staff most love about their jobs at Max Black?

We have a supportive and warm environment where staff are not placed in a hierarchy but honoured for the contribution they make. We foster a culture that brings us together not just as a team, but as a family. There is nothing like the feeling of knowing that what you’re doing is making a worthwhile contribution whilst it is also fun. Fun is really, really important.

What do staff most often complain about?

In our business late nights are often the biggest challenge for our team. To manage this we ensure there is even distribution of floor roles and rostered times and that our team always feels supported by management, especially when something at home or in their personal life requires a little understanding.

How often would Max Black change a store layout or re-merchandise?

Merchandising in store is a constant process. Areas are re-storied on a weekly basis by our in-house retail stylist and larger-scale floor changes are made seasonally or for special events to keep things fresh.

How important is new product or product selection in a store?

Having a product selection process is essential. In our store every product goes through a stringent process of curation by our procurement manager and the managing director. This is done in conjunction with consulting our guests and staff about trends, requests and quality so we are bringing in new products that add to the collection and removing ones that are no longer relevant.

What trends has Max Black observed in adult pleasure products?

From the boom of the rabbit vibe (thank you Sex and the City) to the recent rush of restraint buyers (hello Fifty Shades) the biggest overall trend we’ve observed has been the effect of popular culture on the acceptance, understanding and marketing of products related to sex.

How does Max Black keep informed about adult pleasure products?

From regular research into product and community trends to keeping up to date with the activities of manufacturers and distributors there are a number of ways to keep informed. Industry magazines like Synergy can be a useful tool for what is happening locally.

What makes a successful product?

In today’s world of quick marketing and slick packaging what really matters is having a product that works – one that keeps its promises. The best products are often the simplest and while shiny accessories and innovative tech might create a buzz what matters is creating quality that does what the marketing says it will.

What have been some of the best selling items of all time for Max Black?

Our association with great international brands like Germany’s Fun Factory, Je Joue and We-Vibe meant that their products have always had a ‘pride-of-place’ position and sold very, very well for us.  Also supporting local manufacturers like Wild Hide and Bedroom Antics by giving them great placement in store as well as helping to market them to our guests has helped create a vibe for Australian made items that is genuinely exciting from a sales perspective.

How do you view the trend toward online shopping and the changing role of physical shops?

You simply cannot replace the human experience – we deal with products of a purely intimate nature and being able to touch, feel and see them ‘in the flesh’ is why only dealing with a picture and description is not enough for everyone. Online shopping is just one of the ways the public is engaging with adult products, and it is an essential part of the mix, particularly when it comes to customers who are time-poor or price-conscious. Physical stores like ours must be able to offer something in the in-store experience that the online world adds to but cannot replace. This is the challenge for all retailers, not just adult stores and the ones who do it well will be here long after the others have discounted themselves into non-existence. For us this means tailoring the shopping experience in-store to be personal, fun and empowering so that a visit to the physical store is truly memorable.

How is Max Black responding to the rise in ecommerce sales?

We have a comprehensive and beautifully presented ecommerce site that offers lots of advice and sound product knowledge in addition to being a hub for all things Max and a connection to the communities with which we work. Providing our online customers with same respect, discretion and great customer service that we do in-store is how we have managed to build the business online while supporting our bricks and mortar outlet.

How would you view the market for adult pleasure product in Australia, in general? Are there any challenges particular to operating in Australia versus overseas?

As we don’t operate a store outside of Australia it would be speculative of us to answer the second question other than to say that as our market is smaller and more finite. We operate in a much smaller market than some of our international contemporaries.

What advice could you give someone intending to start in adult retail today?

Research your market. Understand your product. Be original. Be genuine. Work in the industry and understand that almost all of your assumptions will be challenged.





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