Risqué Adult Boutique- Sydney

By on April 13, 2016

I studied Egyptology and History of Art, so my background is far away from the adult Industry. 12 years ago I came across the opportunity to supervise Risqué Boutique design, back then, I need to admit to have found my vocation. It’s been a wonderful adventure, one of a kind, something that you cannot forget.

What are your store trading hours/days and how many days or hours a week do you work in your business?
Every day from 11am until late.

What task do you do on a daily basis/weekly/monthly?
Choosing the right products to be ordered, this means constantly checking the market and client preferences so sometimes we order our regulars, or we add new ones and stop stocking others. I also take care of the pricing, accounting and marketing. I’m always taking care of my staff and welcoming the customers to the shop.

What do you love most about your adult retail business?
It’s a fun industry with open-minded people, that allows you to explore your limits, go beyond them and gain new experiences. I love the way the business is involved in Kings Cross, this business gives a different feeling of understanding “the sex” in general due to the design and atmosphere.

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What is your least favorite part of running the business?
Finding the right balance and making everyone happy, both staff and customers.

What are some of the best things your business has done?
The good relationships we have with many long-term customers, and suppliers. We have also created an iconic shop in the area. Kings Cross has had many changes during the years, but Risqué has always maintained a classy standard.

What have been some of the best moments at your business?
Doing some collaboration parties with my lovely staff, like the Hellfire, Hotkandi, Redheaven, Our secret spot, and interacting with some of our customers were some of 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. Diverse range of products
3. Make customers feel comfortable

What makes a great store?
Great store comes from a great team!
Staff must know the products and be able to explain easily how customers can reach and enjoy their intimate time. At risqué we carry on the motto: Break the barrier of sex life. That means we are trying to make all visitors feel comfortable to be in a Sex Boutique, that carries the largest selection in Sydney. Value the customer as a unique individual. Talking about the private lives of people requires elegance and knowledge.

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What variables define a great store location?
Many factors play an important role to reach the perfect location: visibility, discretion and community. For Risqué the variables are being part and work actively with the Kings Cross community, including night and strip clubs as well as all the different types of customers.

What size are your stores?
Risqué Adult Boutique can be considered an atypical store, that’s why we do like refer to it as a Boutique and not just a sex shop. All the designs start from this concept. Considering sex as art and transmitting that to our customers. We like to play with colours (pink, black and white are our soul) as well as sexual paintings.

The store it’s divided into two sections: at ground level (120sqm) there is the Sexy appeal where customers can fulfil all their need, starting with shoes and going through hosiery, baby dolls, lingerie sets, all the way to very risqué and bondage lingerie.
At the first level is the sex lounge (180sqm). The design has been made in close collaboration with our brands and suppliers to give a three-dimensional experience. Due to the “taboo effect” we designed it so some sections are more private: all fetish items are allocated in a special room around 50sqm and toys requiring discrete location such as strap-ons, anal and dongs have a section divided from the lounge.
Our goal is to immerse the customers into a sexy and relaxed environment that will allowed them to have visual, tactile and sound experiences and knowledge of the products.

How often would your business change a store layout or re-merchandise?
We are committed to create a lounge atmosphere in our shop, therefore in accordance with our visual merchandising and the marketing plan. We are merchandising our products every week, with special artistic creation during holiday times. At Risqué we renovate our layout in accordance with the customers needs or agreements with brands and suppliers but we want to keep the familiar environment therefore the main layout is changed maximum twice a year.

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Does your business target a specific customer demographic? How would you define your customer base?
Risqué Boutique isn’t focusing to a specific customer target. The selection in our shop has a big rage for quality and economy; that’s because King Cross is visited by a very diverse type of customers. We are committed to delivering the finest quality products and researched selection from entry level to a luxury. However, our boutique targets customers that seek to enjoy their time and to be introduced to new experiences whether they are beginners, professional pole dancers, sex workers or just a couple that wants to find a new spark in their sexual intimacy.

What proportion of your sales is repeat business vs new business?
The Adult industry, unfortunately isn’t innovating fast enough and they keep a basis of recurring product that will never get old. With that in mind, at Risqué we are looking to stock every new product (that’s different in its engineering and design) available in the market. To give an estimate: 65% of our stock is a repeat business vs 35% of new stock over a month.

Are your sales staff trained?
Our staff is trained on regular basis. Our Staff Supervisor receives training and updating from the suppliers and brands. Also with every new product we give the necessary training. Knowing our products is essential.
The staff presentation is casual but you can always recognise them due their ID adges. Welcoming the customers and offer their help without pushing them is of the highest importance, we believe that customers need to feel relaxed and confident before approaching them.

What makes a great adult retail staff member?
First and foremost to share the passion for the adult products and business, then a very good knowledge of all the products and to do their best to help our customers to choose the right products. Smiling and welcoming whoever enters the shop. I have always thought that happy staff make happy sales! So, I spend a lot of time caring for my staff as if they are my family. The free exchange of ideas between the staff and Cecile. This free exchange will prevent businesses from growing stale and rigid.

How do you find new staff?
I prefer to have recommended staff.

What do staff most love about their jobs at your business?
Here are some of their answers:
AG: Two things mainly, the first one is how welcoming the staff and Cecile are, it gives you the feeling of being a family. It’s a workplace that really cares about its employees. The second is that I firmly believe that a healthy sex life is very important. I love to help people find pleasure in their lives and when I see them leaving the shop with a smile that makes my day. This job has changed my life for the best and has made me very happy and has opened a whole new career idea for me.

PB: My job at Risqué boutique, if I could say my best job ever…
In addition to a lovely team and the most amazing boss I ever had, what I love the most in my job is the constant originality (products and customers) and the friendly atmosphere in the shop.

Despite the prejudice society has about adult shops, as far as I am concerned it is still a great experience to work there for almost 2 years and I feel safer than anywhere else.

This job permitted me to become more confident and open-minded. I feel blessed since the day I was proposed to work at Risqué Boutique even if I never been in an adult shop before.

CB: Risqué Boutique is like a family, and because we are like a family the customers feel like part of that as well, they feel confident and don’t hesitate to ask every kind of questions. Sometimes we are more than sale assistant, we are also sex therapists. Risqué boutique is a multicultural shop with different nationalities, which makes a lovely atmosphere for our customers.

SB: feeling the passion, the love, sex in the eyes of my customers, and know that just with my expertise I can change their life.

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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?
The last 3 years have been very challenging with the new lock out laws, and the night life in Kings Cross disappearing, we need to adapt the business with all these changes. We have had some tough moments, but we are not afraid of change and quick adaptation has been the key to our success.

What categories of product do you carry? What proportion of the store is devoted to those categories?
Our boutique has two main sections:
• Sex appeal: where we allocate 50% of our full stock and is dedicated to lingerie, shoes and accessories. Out of this we keep a researched novelties area of around 10%.

Lingerie includes baby dolls, bikini sets, teddies, woman’s underwear (crotchless, g-string and panties), sexy dress up, cocktail dresses and costumes.
In regard to shoes we focus on professional pole shoes with a variety of ranges, colours and styles.

• Sex lounge is where we allocate the other 50% of our stock. We mainly focus on luxury vibrators, standard rabbit, clitoris stimulator, standard and remote control bullets. We have also have a large selection of classical toy (dildos, dongs, cock ring and men’s underwear) and a big range of anal toys.

Our fetish room is 15% of the above lounge and includes a selection of restrainers, handcuffs, ridding crops, gags and so on…

Throughout the shop, there is a large disposal of lubricants, condoms and massage oils from mayor brands.

What are some of your best selling brands?
In our shop we are trying to keep all the brands available in the market as long as they are in line with our vision and mission. Our top selling brands are: Lelo, We-Vibe, Leg Avenue, Seven ’till Midnight, Pleaser shoes, Je joue, Nu Sensuelle, Pipedream (Fetish Fantasy and Anal Fantasy) and CalExotics.

What makes a great brand?
Some brands can be dissociated from the retail world as the fail to listen or welcome the needs of the market. Some brands can become great by increasing their collaboration with the retailers, as well as creating a vision and mission to carry on. The innovations and the distribution chain play a massive role in it. At the moment, there are few brand in this level: Lelo (with whom in the last months we have started a closer collaboration to reach all the customer needs and provide the best service in Sydney), We-Vibe, CalExotics, Je Joue and Pleaser shoes.

Do your customers desire well-known American and European brands or is it not so important?
Is rare that our customers are interested in the country of origin or design, usually they are more interested in the quality with a good price balance.

What would be your mix of sales of premium higher priced branded items vs lower end product?
At Risqué starting from last year we are focusing on pricing strategy more than aggressive sales action. In regards to premium brands (L’amourose or Lelo), their products have a large price gap compared to California exotics, for example. To be honest, we are always trying to help our customers to independently form the sales result and choose themselves, e.g, if a customer is a beginner we will not suggest for example a luxury toy but instead we will show them a medium level range first.

This concept isn’t applied to clothing and shoes, where experience will not play any role. Here is more about finding the right item with price/quality/usability balance. Usually there is a balance to keep affordable top brands with the integration of lower brands.

How important is new product or product selection in a store?
As a Boutique we need to always be aware of new products and choose what are the best in the market, as a business we don’t want to be left behind. But there are so many products in the market these days that the choice is complex, so we need to work very closely to our suppliers and get their advice on what is “trendy”.
We also listen to our clients on what they suggest or request, after all it’s to them that we cater for.

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What trends has your business observed in adult pleasure products?
We are going towards rechargeable and waterproof toys, elegant packaging, and good quality at good price.

How does your business keep informed about adult pleasure products?
Synergy is the point of reference, also our suppliers coming regularly in the shop to show us their new products, because we need to touch and feel the products before we can sell then in the shop.

What makes a successful product?
The quality and safety of the product, the presentation (packaging), the image of the brand and word of mouth.

What have been some of the best selling items of all time for your business?
In our shop we are trying to stock all the brands available at the market, if it’s in line with our vision and mission. As for the best selling items: We-Vibe for couples and Tango, Fun Factory- Big Boss, Ina and Mona Wave by Lelo, Swiss Navy lubricants as well as Pjur, Pipedream Fetish Fantasy Kits, Sensuelle Point by Nu.

What variables can ‘make’ or ‘break’ a product in a store?
Marketing it’s a big variable itself, we will not go into depth in this matter. Briefly we believe in marketing’s 4 P’s Mix:
1. Product: our products are divided into three parts: essentials, complementary and accessories. Knowing the usability of the product is vital.
2. Price: there will never be enough balance on quality product, but we are dedicated to keeping the base price as low as possible.
3. Placement: with 12 years’ experience and close collaboration with our suppliers, we have gained exclusivity or we have always been the first store to stock a particular brand or new product.
4. Promotion: We are focused on “education” for a healthy and diverse sex life and conduct online and in store promotions or ADV’s.

What are you doing/can you do to get more customers?
Business planning in adult retail isn’t easy, the variables involved are rooted in social lifestyle and taboo. That’s why at Risqué our vision is to break the taboos regarding sex and the mission to educate about good sex and erotic confidence.

To increase our customer base, first of all we must start with great customer service. That’s why we like to get to know our customers and we try to keep their loyalty by activities such as special deals and promotions.

Maximization of sales and increased business can be achieved through a detailed and programmed plan in accordance with the marketing schedule and a close relationship with wholesalers and brands. This will land a good ROI and breakdown a level in accordance with strategic pricing. This last variable, must be elaborated with the happiness of the customers in mind and not the competition.

At Risqué we have a good marketing strategy supported by a business plan. Often small businesses are merely managed day by day, but the work behind our shop is comparable to that of a big company.

What promotional activity do you engage in?
We are looking forward for our new website risquekingscross.com.au. Stay tuned.

We have also started to be more active on social media:
facebook.com/risqueboutiquelingerie and pinterest.com/risqueboutique

We are sponsoring some events like Hellfire, Redheaven, Our Secret Spot.
We have created a loyalty program for our customers and we have regular promotions for special occasions like Valentines Day, Mardi Gras, Halloween and Christmas.

We are also planning some workshops in the near future to help our customers know more about our products and other topics related to sex, fetish, lifestyle and relationships. We are looking forward to hosting LELO events very soon.

How do you create awareness for your store(s)?
Our street window displays, always new stock coming, Facebook, party promotion, Pinterest, contact with pole studio owners, word of mouth.

How do you view the trend toward online shopping and the changing role of the physical shops?
Freedom & convenience of shopping online is good but nothing can replace the touch and feel of the products and the quality of good customer services, however we are aware of the tendency of online shopping and we want to cater for all of our customer needs and that is why we are developing our online store.

How is your business responding to the rise in ecommerce sales?
Every business at this day needs to deal with a growing web market. As a boutique we believe that nothing can replace a personal and warming customer service, but mostly cannot replace the physical and tactile experience with the products (while comparing noise, material, vibration pattern and power). We are opening our e-commerce with a strong believe that it will be just the “closing deal” and for those that already know our shop and products but want to take advantage of the convenience online shopping provides.

What advice could you give someone intending to start in adult retail today?
Love, passion & respect for what you are doing are some of the keys to success.

We’re currently hearing about a decline in the nightlife and entertainment precincts in Sydney due to increased
laws and restrictions imposed by authorities. Has this affected your business?
Any new law in any field of application will affect a structure of businesses and local community. But it will also bring a good opportunity to renovate as a response to new reality. Our business has been affected by these laws, as all the suburb has, but it’s been a way to push us to be more creative and renovate ourselves. These laws will not stop people having sex.

Trading Name: Risqué Adult Boutique
Established: 1996
Founder/Managing Director: Cecile Cornille
Head Office: Sydney Darlinghurst
Staff: 10
Store(s) : 1
URL: risquekingscross.com.au (coming soon)

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