The new and oft-quoted social acceptance of sex toys has a positive effect on all channels of distribution – including direct distribution, for instance at home parties. EAN turned to man who knows this market like few others: Eric Vonke, head of the Dutch company Ladies Night Homeparties. In our interview, we discussed the latest developments and trends in the home party segment.
Eric, how has the adult-oriented home party business been going this year so far?
Eric Vonke: For another year, we have been growing in Holland as well as in the Czech Republic, so we are very happy.
How does the increasing social acceptance of sex toys benefit this channel of distribution?
It makes it easier and easier for women to invite their friends to a party such as ours. Not that it was difficult before, but the people that don’t accept our kind of business are becoming a minority. And for us, finding the right consultants has also become easier to than it was 10 years ago.
Yvonne Ubbink, Sharon Vonke, and Eric Vonke
A lot has been said and written about the advantages of selling adult products at home parties. In your opinion, what are the three biggest reasons for the success of this channel of distribution?
- Direct marketing. Everything we show, we sell.
- The subject is still good for laughs and giggle, which makes it very accessible.
- We establish a good and direct relationship with our clients. They trust us, know our service, and almost all are returning customers.
And what are the biggest challenges in the home party segment? Maybe the large number of competitors?
The biggest challenge is to stay innovative and find the right products for our assortment. The number of competitors is not really relevant to us. We set the trends, we don’t follow them. We believe in our own strength.
How important are the consultants for the success of Ladies Night, and which qualities do you look for when selecting these consultants?
The consultants are the face of the company. They are extremely important in our business. It is up to them to give our clients a wonderful time and represent each and every one in the Ladies Night family.
The qualities we look for in our consultants are: girl next door, accessible for many groups of friends, friendly attitude, strict in keeping promises made, strong in communication and most of all, they must enjoy ‘working’ in this business just as everybody else in the company does.
Lending advice and information is key – how do you keep your consultants up to date on all the new products that are launched onto the adult market every month?
We change part of our assortment every three months. Our management team makes a video in our back office, explaining why we chose a particular product and how it should maybe be presented at the parties.
From there, our consultants will update us on the responses from their customers, and the consultants who are particularly successful with a product share their review on why they think they are selling it more than average.
“Nowadays, most women know what they like and don’t like in sex.”
How well-informed are the women coming to these parties? How much do they know about adult products?
Nowadays, most women know what they like and don’t like in sex. They see us as an extension of their knowledge. They may not know exactly what adult toys are available, but they know that we always have something to satisfy their curiosity or needs. And we tell them about some products in advance that are new and that they can expect to see at the next party. But, most importantly, they come to have a fun evening!
Are there any products that have been particularly popular in 2016 so far? And how has demand changed over the years?
Products for couples are becoming increasingly popular. Only a few years ago, women found out men are turned on by the idea of women buying these products, and now, they are very aware that bringing a product home for the two of them to enjoy is a guaranteed pleasurable experience.
Teledildonics and sex tech are the big buzz words of 2016 – are your customers interested in this combination of sex toys and modern technologies?
In general, I believe it is still a niche. Teledildonics: The number of women who are in long-distance relationships is not that big. Also, the products are still very expensive and people who are interested in that technology will probably choose to buy them somewhere else rather than from us.
Teledildonics will be a huge hit in the webcam market, though. Sex tech as in products with app control is gaining interest, but our experience so far is that we are not ready for them yet. Updates from mobile phone producers prevent them from being successful. Almost every update on Android or Apple results in problems with app-controlled toys in our experience.
“E-commerce will win even more ground, brick and mortar will lose ground, and home parties will continue to gain on the others.”
Ladies Night also has a range of private brands – and they are very successful. However, there is continuous criticism that private brands are flooding the market, pushing ‘real’ brands to the sidelines. What is your position on this matter?
Good question that is often asked by brands. Considering brands can be bought in many places, it is hard for us to compete with a web shop without employees and overhead costs. What I see in the market is that there are a lot of private brands that all look alike, which doesn’t make them stand out like our Ladies Night brand.
What standards do you have concerning your private brands? How do you make sure that each new product you create lives up to the consumers’ requirements in terms of quality and innovation?
We have worked with the same wholesalers and producers for a long time now. They know that if they want a product to be considered for our assortment, they have to come up with innovative ideas. Quality-wise, they know our commitment to our clients, so we have the right of returns. We bring a lot of business to wholesalers and producers, but they have to meet our expectations and they do.
Could you imagine having such parties for men? Would there be a market for such events?
Absolutely. I can see a concept where men are invited to buy the best toys for their women, as well as for couples to use together. I think the macho culture prevents it from being successful enough for a real market to exist now though. As for gay men, I don’t think this concept would work.
How will the three major channels of distribution – brick and mortar, e-commerce, and home parties – develop in relation to one another? Which channel will gain importance, which will lose importance? Where do you see untapped potential?
In my opinion: E-commerce will win even more ground, brick and mortar will lose ground, and home parties will continue to gain on the others. Of course, there will be exceptions.
The most important thing is the passion about the business. If you are passionate, your chances of success are the highest. And you have to innovate, don’t just imitate. I see untapped potential in a combination of 2 out of the 3 channels. While we see a lot of companies outside of our business where brick and mortar is becoming more of an extension of the e-commerce side of the company, we hardly see that in our industry.