‘Fifty Shades’ of green: Sex toys are now a $15 billion industry

Sure, sex sells. But apparently, it sells a whole lot better when there’s a blockbuster entertainment franchise involved.

The sex toy market is enjoying unprecedented growth in recent years, buoyed in large by the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon, say industry insiders and experts. And with a new “Fifty Shades” book — the simply titled “Grey” — now on the market, business is expected to boom all the more.

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“Fifty Shades” needs little in the way of introduction, of course. The book series, which chronicles the salacious relationship between a wealthy businessman and a college student, sold in the millions — 125 million-plus copies to be exact. And the Universal Pictures/Focus Features film adaptation, released this February, created no small sensation, either, with a box office take of $569 million to date.

But perhaps just as noteworthy is how “Fifty Shades” has transformed a sex-toy industry once largely associated with the porn world – many adult film stars have their own toy lines – or with back-alley merchants that don’t exactly cater to a mom-and-pop demographic. Because “Fifty Shades” became such a mainstream success — in spite of (or perhaps because of) its emphasis on kinky sexual practices — it made the toy business more acceptable in the process, say industry insiders and experts. Global sales of sex toys were estimated to reach $15 billion in 2014, according to Statistic Brain. And some observers say that figure could grow to $52 billion by 2020.

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Indeed, some retailers and manufacturers are finding it hard to keep up with demand. “We’re having our best year ever,” says Lisa Lawless, founder of HolisticWisdom.com, an online retailer of sexual products. Like others, Lawless points to “Fifty Shades” as a huge driver of sales, but she also says the industry is benefitting from the fact it’s becoming more sophisticated, with an emphasis on products made from non-toxic materials.

Retailers and manufacturers are also becoming more conscious about marketing to the mainstream consumer. To that very point, in 2013, Lawless established the National Association for the Advancement of Science & Art in Sexuality (NASAAS), which she calls the first trade group the sex-toy industry has truly known. To date, Lawless has already signed up 700 members.

And it helps that retailers are finding new – and more discreet – channels to market products. For example, Stacy Rybchin, founder of My Secret Luxury, another online seller of sexual products, has launched My Secret Soiree, an in-home shopping service. “Concierges will help you find the best high quality adult products that fit your needs,” the service advertises.

Still, Rybchin says the industry continues to face plenty of challenges. Even with “Fifty Shades of Grey” — and now “Grey” — helping to legitimize the toy market, Rybchin finds that banks, insurance companies and other mainstream businesses — “You name it,” she says — are hesitant to get involved with companies like hers for the obvious reasons.

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“We are lumped into the adult (entertainment) industry, even though we have nothing to do with pornography,” Rybchin says.

View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/thanks-to-fifty-shades-of-grey-sex-toy-industry-is-seeing-more-green-2015-06-19

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