Throughout the past years, the adult market has seen far-reaching changes, and for the brick and mortar trade, things haven’t exactly gotten easier. So if a store has been around for 17 years, that means someone has definitely done something right – in our case, that someone would be Anette Nordstrand, the owner of ‘Lustgården’ in Uppsala, Sweden. Apart from her store, she and her team have also begun using other channels of distribution to sell adult products, namely home parties and e-commerce. EAN talked with Anette about her activities in the adult realm.
When did you start your store in Uppsala, and why did you decide to try your luck in the adult retail trade? Anette Nordstrand: I opened the store in October of 1998, together with a friend. But the idea of a store had already sprung up several years earlier after my husband and I had been to an adult store in Stockholm. That store was mainly for men which made me feel very uncomfortable there. That is when I decided that once my four children were older, I would go back to university and study business economics and then open a love store where everyone would feel comfortable.
Some of our readers may not know all too much about the Swedish city of Uppsala. Would you mind giving us some information about your home base? Are there a many other adult stores there?
We are the only store in Uppsala. We have been here for 17 years and are currently in our 3rd store-location. Two other stores tried to open but did not succeeded. Uppsala is the fourth largest city in Sweden, it is mainly a student city as the historic Uppsala University is located here. Therefore, the products in the store are a little different from what you get in high-end stores in Stockholm.
Now let’s talk about your store: Which philosophy do you follow in your retail activities, and which concept is at the core of your store? Is Lustgarden more a traditional adult store or more like a modern erotic boutique?
Our slogan is that we are about lust, not dirty behaviour. In the beginning, we were very female-oriented and we paid great attention to the products and the packaging. We even put small stickers on some boxes, apologising for the packaging design. However, times have changed and now we are more focused on the overall concept which is targeting both old and young. Therefore, we feel that our store is a modern erotic boutique – we even have chandeliers on the ceiling.
What type of shopping experience awaits the consumers when they enter your store?
The store is very inviting and warm, however, different types of consumers will have different experiences We are not afraid to get personal with our customers. So if a person is more on the shy side, she/he will have a more boutique-like experience while others will feel more relaxed. However, as the store is run by a regular team of women in their late 30s, all costumers feel that they can ask us any questions without embarrassment.
What clientele do you want your store to appeal to? Many retailers have focused on couples as their target audience – have you also set your sights on that group?
Our clientele is everyone over fifteen, but our customers are mainly between 25 and 60 years old. Our oldest costumer is 86 years old, a woman who said that she did not want to die curious. We are recommended by the local hospital because of our good range of high-quality products, but also because of our life experiences and helpful attitude. We want our store to appeal to all and be comfortable for all, no matter if you are single or in a relationship, if you are looking for toys, lingerie, or helpful products.
What kinds of products do you offer in your store, and which criteria do you apply when selecting them?
Our range of products includes condoms, lubricants and massage oils, clothes, scents, gag gifts, games, books, and erotic films as well as vibrators, pumps, sex toys for male users, female users and couples regardless of gender. We also carry pharmaceuticals, creams, and oils that heat, tickle, and taste good.
The criteria we apply are very strict. We only have products whose quality we have ascertained through personal use. When a new product is released, we buy one to take look at it and touch it in order to see if we like it. Is it too loud? Is the vibration strong enough? We also have really good relationships which our wholesalers, and we go to eroFame every year.
What are your top-sellers? Which trends have the biggest influence on customer demand right now? Are high-tech toys a big thing? How popular are toys for men?
Our top-sellers are silicone-based lubricants and small clitoris vibrators that couples use to spice up their love life. The Fifty Shades of Grey line has been popular because it is erotic and not pornographic. As a result, it has become more acceptable to try BDSM. The market for high-tech toys is also evolving, however, most of our customers are not as tech-savvy. Many feel they don’t want their cell phones in the bedroom. And those who go for high-tech toys are often male. There’s also another thing: The costumer who is already used to toys is interested in trying high-tech, but a first-time toy shopper will not buy it. Our feeling on the matter is that the market is trying hard to push high-tech toys whereas our customers prefer smaller toys that are easier to use and come at a more affordable price. Toys for men are becoming more acceptable, but it is still more acceptable for a single woman to have sex toys than for a male single. We see this in regards to who is buying the product: Men often buy vibrators for women, but very few women buy products for men. However, when women feel a male product could be used as a couples’ toy, for instance during foreplay, they tend to buy the product.
How important are brands for your customers? Which other factors influence the consumers’ purchasing decision?
We don’t feel that brands are the most important thing for our customers, but of course, they see the ads and promotions of the big brands. The biggest factor for our customers is our advice and knowledge of the different products in our store. We play a big role in their purchasing decision.
How well-informed are your customers? Do they have experience with adult products, or are there also a lot of first-time buyers? Are many customers looking for advice from your sales staff?
Our clientele can be split in two groups – the well-informed and the first-time buyer. But since this is a student town and we are recommended by the hospital, lots of people from both groups seek our advice.
Professional customer advice is key. How do you make sure you can give sound advice? What kinds of questions are you faced with? Are they usually about specific products and their qualities, or do you also have to offer more general explanations?
We get all kinds of questions. Some people want to know about our personal experience with, or opinions about toys, but we also get people with different types of ailments who come to us because we have been recommended to them by the hospital. In order to make sure that our staff can give sound advice in all areas, we have an all-female staff with different life experience. The staff has also worked here for quite some time and everyone is well aware of our products.
The adult market has changed a lot throughout the past years. How has that affected your store, and how has it changed the composition and preferences of your customer base?
Of course we have noticed the shift towards the online market, but our store focusses on the personal experience and not just the products. We believe that is a part of why we have stayed open for 17 years and why we are still highly recommended. We have put more focus on our webpage and our social media outlets, we have also advertised in quite a few newspapers and have taken part in a radio show. This change means that our customers are well-informed about different products and more often than not, they know what they need help with when they come in. The climate for sex is more open today than ever before which makes it easier to talk about it.
Has Lustgarden been able to capitalise on the growing public acceptance of adult products? Do more customers enter your store?
The online market has definitely helped us capitalise on this growing acceptance. However, we do have more costumers in our store and there are been many older people who visit our store. We believe this is a combination of the growing acceptance and the type of store we run. For instance, each year, we also offer our products at a market targeted at people over sixty.
Like many store owners in the brick and mortar trade, you also have an online shop, and moreover, Lustgarden is also involved in the home party segment. Is it a necessity to diversify like that to be successful in today’s market?
We believe that it is a necessity if you want to reach out to people, but not really a necessity to be successful. Home parties is a marketing strategy as well as social medium. The online store is designed to complement our physical store and it is frequented by three different types of groups: the people who use it to read up on the product before they come to the store, the people who have moved away and cannot come to Uppsala anymore, and then there is the group of people who cannot get to our store within regular business hours.
Since when have you been active in the e-commerce segment, when did you start offering toy parties? How important are these two sales channels for Lustgarden?
We started with home parties in 1999, and the web shop was launched a few years later, in 2003. These two channels are valuable in terms of marketing and costumer connection.
Do you reach more or less the same consumer groups with all of these channels, or are there differences? Is there cross-pollination between store, online shop, and home parties, or does one channel steal away customers from another?
There are some differences between the groups we reach, but there is definitely cross-pollination. As said before, the online shop is used as a complement the actual boutique, and even if we do not carry a certain product in our regular range, we are always happy to add it if a costumer asks for it.
What are the biggest challenges for Lustgarden in a) the brick and mortar trade, b) the adult online trade, and c) the home party market?
The biggest challenges a) is to advertise the store in order to get costumers to come in, b) the web shop has to be simple and easy to manoeuvre, and you need the right marketing strategy, and c) for the home parties, the staff and products need to be in line with the atmosphere of the event /evening and clientele.
What’s the situation in the Swedish adult retail trade? Which problems are you faced with at the moment?
The situation in Sweden can be divided into two parts, the brick and mortar trade and the online trade. The online shops don’t usually follow the recommended prices and this can affect the walk-in stores. The problem for the retailers is that our European wholesalers have low stocks and many products are sold out or it’s very difficult to have them shipped over in time.
Do you feel that as a retailer, you get enough support from the industry, i.e. from producers, distributors, and wholesalers? Are you offered useful POS materials, product training, etc.?
We have a great relationship with the wholesalers and eroFame is a great place to get in touch with distributors. As the owner of the store, I don’t really feel that we get enough POS material and product training.
What plans does Lustgarden have for the future?
The plan for the store is to develop in the online market while keeping the personal touch of the physical store. The store will live on and develop our customer base. We want to teach Uppsala to have a great love life.