Pleasures Unlimited, Bunbury, Western Australia

By on August 2, 2016

I initially started in Adult Retail with Lovers in Perth about 1991. Prior to this I was with Myer for 10 years as a customer service manager. I strongly believe that the training I received with Myer has really helped me with owning and running my own business.

How many days or hours a week do you work in your business?
Pleasures Unlimited is open 7 days a week. Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm with Thursday late night trade until 9pm. Saturday 9am to 5pm and Sunday we have gentleman’s hours of 10am to 4pm. We close 3 days a year being New Year’s Day, Easter Friday and Christmas Day. I usually work 2 to 5 days a week however I am currently training a manager so that I can take some time off after 21 years of trading.

What task do you do on a daily basis?
I would suggest that like most owners of a business I am constantly looking on a daily basis at trends of media advertising, window displays etc. The 2 free local newspapers can be a good guideline. Store layout and product knowledge is important on a weekly basis and then I have the monthly MYOB to do for Mr Tax Man.

What do you love most about your adult retail business?
Breaking down the barriers of what the public perceive an adult store is.

What is your least favourite part of running the business?
Wholesalers who do not put the size of a product in the description on their web site. It has always baffled me that they do this when the retailer is the one they are marketing their product to. Doesn’t make any real sense does it?

What are some of the best things your business has done?
We have a good rapport with a number of health professionals who send clients our way and who I have set up shop for during one of their functions to speak about and shop adult products. We have a gynecologist, health department, doctor, physiotherapist, relationship counsellor plus others. I have spoken at functions for a Women workshop at Tech, Relationships Australia, Health Department country functions etc.

What have been some of the best moments at your business?
Personal satisfaction from when we sponsor people for sporting events, donate towards quiz nights for sick kids, (one especially to raise money to buy a wheelchair for a young boy with cerebral palsy where they raised $10,000.00 on the night), sponsoring or donating to our yearly Relay For Life to raise money for cancer.

What are a few of the key variables in order of importance to ensure the best chance of success in adult retail?
You need to be business aware but discreet in advertising so as not to offend the general public or local council.
Have a clean, presentable and well stocked store.
You need to have capable staff who know what they are talking about.
You need to be 100% on the ball at all times. The Adult Industry can be quite fickle and change very quickly with products so you need to be aware of changes.
You need to be approachable not stand offish when meeting people at business gatherings or casual events and try to always promote your business at these events.

What makes a great store?
The décor, staff, cleanliness and display of items.

What variables define a great store location?
Foot traffic, locality to parking, window display to catch the eye of people driving or walking by and good but discreet signage.

What size are your stores and how is the fit out?
The store is 110 square meters with the service area in the middle of the store. When you come through the front door you see novelty items to “soften” the image of the store that then run into the vibrator area. Free standing display units in the middle of the front of the store guide the person to dildos, bondage and anal toys. Through to the back of the store is the DVD section with male toys and larger items. There is also a back door entry door so customers have two ways to enter the store.

How often would your business change a store layout or re-merchandise?
On average we do a re-merchandise fortnightly with a major relay about every two months.

Does your business target a specific customer demographic?
It is hard to define demographics when in a country area even though Bunbury is a city. Country areas tend to have a more transient population than a larger city. I have always preferred to exclude income, education, home ownership etc and focus on welcoming all people.

What proportion of your sales is repeat business vs new business?
I would say we have about a 60% repeat business rate.

How do you train your staff?
Training can come from my wholesalers, company reps/owners and feedback from customers.
I train on a one on one basis unless a rep is here when I ask staff to attend. With the changing forms of packaging now I even show staff how to open some of the trickier products and make sure they can do it correctly without breaking the packaging. Not easy sometimes.

What makes a great adult retail staff member?
Definitely their ability to make a customer feel at ease when they are looking for a personal product. Then their expertise in product knowledge is also a key factor to a good staff member.
After that it is the respect from me towards my staff that encourages their “want and desire” to work in the Adult Industry.

How/where do you find new staff?
Fortunately I don’t have a lot of staff changes but when I do need a staff member I put the feelers out locally through friends and then use the local newspaper. A classic timing case about five years ago was when Sharon walked through the door and asked if there were any jobs available. I was literally just at the point of sending an advertisement to the newspaper. To cut a long story short; I employed here and she is still with me today.

What do staff most love about their jobs at your business?
I am sure we would like to think as owners of a store that it is because they love working for us but we have to be realistic about this don’t we.

I asked my staff to jot down a few points and the dominant theme from them was that they really liked assisting customers to purchase the correct item for their needs especially when it was a first time for the customer so here are their words.

Sharon. Assisting customers that come into the shop for the first time, putting them at ease and making it an enjoyable experience for them. Also working with a great group of people.

Tamara. Being able to help our customers purchase the right product for their specific needs. Working in such an open and fun environment is great too.

Deborah. The highlight for me is the enjoyment of helping customers that come into the store because of medical or health issues such as prostate or erectile dysfunction and being able to educate them about their different options in resuming a sex life. The relief on their faces after seeing or hearing about products that can assist them is most rewarding.

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?
One of the biggest changes for my business was the sharp decline in magazine sales attributed to the internet and social media. I focused on new lines and expanding growth areas like anal and bondage products.

Also the increased interest from customers for rechargeable products saw me start to increase that range and decrease some of the battery style toys.

What categories of product do you carry? What proportion of the store is devoted to those categories?
Adult toys 40%, Novelties 35%, Body Products like toppings, lubrications etc 15%, DVD’s 10%.

What are some of your best selling brands?
Loveline vibrators, RealRock dildos, Fleshlight. We-Vibe, Novelle, Sports Fucker cockrings and recently the upgraded ranges from Adam and Eve are becoming popular.

What makes a great brand?
For me it is the packaging to catch the customer’s eye, the back up service from the manufacturer/wholesaler and promotion of a product.

Do your customers desire well known American and European brands or is it not so important?
Branding does not appear to be a major contributor to a customer’s choice of product but obviously there are exceptions to this with brands like We-Vibe etc.

What would be your mix of sales of premium higher priced branded items vs lower end product.
Premium is about 15% of sales mainly in the rechargeable ranges.

How important is new product or product selection in a store?
Very important. We make sure that we have new products each month which we highlight in store and on line.

What trends has your business observed in adult pleasure products?
Without a doubt, bondage and anal products are the two biggest increase areas over the last 3 years.

How does your business keep informed about adult pleasure products?
Wholesalers, magazines like Synergy, direct emails from the companies, social media and also customer requests.

What makes a successful product?
Ease of use, quietness, shape, features, word of mouth recommendations to friends and company promotion of the product. A classic example is the Womanizer. We now have people coming in and just buying them. They have already done their own checking of the product.

What have been some of the best selling items of all time for your business?
S-Wet Twin Turbo cockring, We-Vibe, Pipes, Fleshlights.

What variables can ‘make’ or ‘break’ a product in a store?
Packaging. I keep coming back to this don’t I. An example is a current vibrator called Design for Orgasm. It is a perfect first time vibrator and priced well. We check that a product is working and give a warranty but with these vibrators, you have to cut the packaging off because it is completely sealed. This means that if someone is buying it for a gift, their friend is receiving an open item in a cut package which does not look good. It would be far better to have it in a resealable package.

What are you doing/can you do to get more customers?
If only I knew the magic answer to this. I think it would be a constant thought for all retailers on how to get more customers into your store however I strongly believe that my staff are the key to my business with how they serve customers; making them feel very relaxed so that they build a rapport with them so they come back. We have a very good ratio of repeat customers because of my staff.

What promotional activity do you engage in?
I updated my web site just over a year ago to make it user friendly to all social media avenues like ipads, mobiles etc. I do a monthly newsletter to people who register on line. I find it interesting that a lot of local people come into the store with the codes or names of products from my web site so while there may not be a lot of web orders, the web site is definitely an advantage.

I have tried promoting through Google but found their restrictions to my web site content frustrating. I have Facebook but since they launched onto the stock exchange you now have to boost your posts to reach the people that like your page. Unfortunately Facebook will allow you to have an Adult Site with age restrictions, but they will not allow you to boost a post because you are an Adult Store. I even did a cut and paste from their web site recommended wording to promote condoms and they declined the post.

How do you view the trend toward online shopping and the changing role of the physical shops?
I don’t think anyone can deny that on-line shopping is hurting the bricks and mortar retailers. We have to be smarter and utilize our personal skills in selling to combat this trend. It is not easy but when you get your customers talking about their needs and wants and make them feel comfortable they will come back. We just have to work harder at it.

What advice could you give someone intending to start in adult retail today?
If you are doing it for the right reasons then I would recommend it to any enthusiastic person. It is definitely an interesting industry to work in and you make some good friends who are like minded.

Build a good rapport with your wholesalers because without them on your side you will always have an uphill battle. That is one of the joys of owning my business for 21 years; the help and support I get from my wholesalers. They have definitely made it easier for me with advice and support.

Be aware that most people coming into your store require help in guiding them to the right product for their needs. Find an area that you can become a specialist in; whether that be health issues like erectile dysfunction, using a local doctor to recommend people for personal items like lubrications etc. Find an area and become the best at it.

A Synergy interview with Glen Idiens, Pleasures Unlimited.

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