Report from the Trenches at ANME and XBiz
I had a fantastic time at the ANME and XBiz Retail Trade Shows the last several days. It’s always a pleasure to catch up with old friends and have some real face time with vendors and business partners.
ANME is the Adult Novelty Manufacturers Expo held at the Marriott Burbank that showcases the best of the adult industry’s latest adult sex toys. Companies have booths featuring their wares and it’s a perfect time to peruse the latest trends, the best-selling designs, and buyers from all over descend up on the showroom floors to place orders, discuss upcoming launches, and to connect with their vendors. Good Vibrations’ wholesale division, Pleasure Works Wholesale had a booth showcasing their latest endeavors in silicone, vibrator packaging, and lubricants as well as sexy gift sets and kits. I am a huge personal fan of Pleasure Works’ Please Cream Lube. Water-based and containing no glycerine or parabens, it’s perfect for people with sensitivities. Because of its consistency and viscosity it’s a perfect lube for all kinds of play and I will go on record as saying it’s the best water-based cream lube out there… no offending scents and it’s nice on the wallet too. Oh and it just so happens to be made locally in California near our corporate headquarters.
Some observations made at the show were that it’s all about balls — Ben Wa balls that is! Fifty Shades of Grey has created this phenom about the way to achieve an explosive orgasm is to exercise the vaginal muscles with silicone or metal balls that are held in the vaginal canal by muscle constricting while aroused. We call this doing your kegel exercises. Our pal Emily Morse even has an app for that! I think there is a scene in the Fifty Shades book that describes kegels more ‘poetically’ but it’s interesting how almost every vendor has something to offer in this arena. Smart balls, love balls, kegel balls… balls balls balls. All in the name of the elusive explosive orgasm hunt, as well as lots of naughty hanky-panky spanky type of accouterments because this is the year that kinky and naughty role playing has busted out mainstream big time. Paddles and restraints and blindfolds and ticklers were everywhere. (Madonna was so ahead of her time, ha ha!)
On the vibrator front, you know you can reinvent the marketing, the design, the mechanism, but one thing remains constant– when it comes to vibrators, it’s all about vibration, vibration, vibration. Some people like it discreet, some people like a power tool, some people prefer small battery vibes, some folks like dual functionality for twice-as-nice effect like the rabbit vibrator models for clitoral and internal stimulation simultaneously while some folks request ecorotic rechargeable vibes for their functionality and design. But when you find a vibrator that works for you, you are beyond happy with it because maybe it gave you your very first orgasm. Or maybe it’s just a tried and true device that you can count on for consistent orgasms. Whichever you prefer, they were all on display at this show. Some throbbed, some pulsated, some gyrated, some were complicated, and some were very easy to turn On and Off. It used to be 3 speeds, then 4 speeds, last year was 6 speeds, and now like a well-made Italian racing bike, the new marketing push is 7 speeds. Stronger, harder, faster, smaller, bigger, swirling, twirling… I think the only thing they didn’t do was make you breakfast! There weren’t any models that blew me away, but there were a few that made me go ‘Ohhhh’ and those are the ones that usually make the cut for us when we want to delight our customers with something new.
Another observation is that pegging is going mainstream more than ever. It’s not just about bending over your boyfriend, it’s about having the best harness, the best silicone, the best strap or sex furniture to make it easier, and old school vendors talk about it like it’s run-of-the-mill sex play now. I remember when anal scenes (male on female) were exotic for porn movies and now they are de rigueur and expected in every movie. Anal sex used to be a fetish genre unto itself and now they are standard and just another scene in regular movies. Now it should also be known in case you didn’t get the memo that men like their butts played with and the prostate is a gland that loves to be stimulated. Not every man has one (transmen were not born with them) but if you have one it’s healthy for it to get some good attention. I think America is catching up to what Euro boys knew a long time ago, and I love my job because a big lesbian like me can write about this with an insider’s in-the-know perspective.
Vendors from all over the world come to this event. This is a relationship based business and some partnerships go back decades. I know some people may think that this is a boozy, debaucherous show and trust me, there are the stalwart partyers who close the bar each night but this is an industry full of very hard working people who are devoted to their families and who show up for 8 A.M. breakfast meetings with power point presentations who have worked their tushes off to be there. Remember, at this show we are all still in season. Our busy season runs from Thanksgiving weekend until Valentines’ Day so we don’t get to fully relax until March. I love sitting at a booth and being shown a brand new vibrator that thrusts itself across the table while we are talking about life and showing each other pictures of our kids and pets and having some fun belly laughs. I have worked in this industry in one aspect or another for over 20 years now and I love it for many reasons (business, innovation, design, popular trends, technology, activism around free speech and reproductive rights, and more than anything — what we do for our customers) but I love the relationships and partnerships forged with some brilliant and talented people.
I am always reminded at these shows just how much I love this industry while we still take time to laugh at ourselves and each other. Their is definite comic relief moments at these shows… remember it’s a show that features pleasure products so thankfully I don’t have work in the pest control industry for example. No offense to anyone who likes to study bugs all day. These shows are a great time to take stock, take a moment and reflect while looking ahead and gathering up steam for the bigger picture of the year ahead.
This year is all about how we continue to tantalize and engage our customer’s loyalty as they have plenty of devices to shop with, while sourcing plenty of places that are driving prices down. I will discuss this in another blog post but for now just know that Good Vibrations is proud of our brand of service where our Sex Educators/Sales Associates are highly trained and completely engaged in our customers’ superior experience whether they are in our stores, online, calling our 800#, on Live Chat, via social media or checking out our mobile site. We always strive to innovate and improve and engage with our customers honestly and authentically. We know our customers have choices and we are always grateful when they choose us. Some manufacturers are combating defective cheaper knock-off counterfeiters and we do not sell or do business with any entity who offers imitation knock offs of our established vendors and we are proud of that. That’s why I said it.
I ended this trade show season with one full day at XBiz held this year at the Sofitel Hotel in Beverly Hills. Besides digital content and online emphasis, XBiz has a one-day retail-focused seminar schedule with compelling panels of industry professionals. I was honored to be asked to be on a panel along with some other industry veterans. It’s always a great way to boast about the company you love working for but more than that it’s a wonderful way to meet new up and coming designers and retailers and manufacturers and hear what the general public has to say while they inquire about our industry. I love doing these panels because of the amazing people in the audience as well as hearing what other operators are doing with their businesses as we all strive to remain relevant and successful during a time when big box retailers offer some ‘sexual wellness’ products.
Lastly, some highlights for me was getting to share some time with Diane Duke, the Director of the Free Speech Coalition and with Emily Morse, star of Bravo’s Miss Advised show. Both are very righteous women who are bright lights and who make you feel good to be around. In other words — good people. Once again, we talk shop, business, industry, and then we have amazing conversations about life in general and our common shared goals… you know simple little things like changing the world and people’s perceptions around sexual health and education.