“It is good to keep reflecting on the ‘why’ in the things we do.”
CLS Healthcare has been successful in the online segment of the adult market for years, and they have even established their own brands of condoms, toys, supplements, and lingerie. In recent months, the company from The Hague has put more focus on the b2b segment – reason enough for EAN to ask for an interview. Rits Douwes, who is in charge of the wholesale department of CLS, tells us about the history of the company, about its brands – namely Safe, Pleasurelab, Willie Toys, Explicit Blue, and ZimBra – and he gives an outlook on CLS Healthcare’s plans for the future.
CLS Healthcare Wholesale is a division of e-commerce company CLS Healthcare from The Netherlands. Before we go into greater detail, could you give us an overview of your company and its philosophy?
Rits Douwes: With our brands Safe (condoms), Pleasurelab (toys), Willie Toys, and Explicit Blue (supplements for sexual health), we have clear, distinct propositions to target a broad variety of consumers and target groups. For the development of products, we do a lot of in-depth surveys with consumers that provide us with valuable information and expertise about the market in which we operate, and it allows us to successfully develop brands and products for the b2b market: Safe, Pleasurelab, Willie Toys and Explicit Blue.
As for our corporate philosophy, CLS Healthcare wants to convey ‘The Dutch Spirit’; communicating about intimacy and sex in a tolerant and respectful way, and celebrating individual differences. We believe that a society with an open attitude towards these themes ensures richer and more meaningful experiences in relationships, love, and sex. It is good to keep reflecting on the ‘why’ in the things we do.
Clearly, The Dutch Spirit and our way of working is valued and enables us to build long-term relationships with international A-brands, who are happily represented by us.
CLS has been active in the market for a decade now. How did the company evolve during this time?
At first, we started with our own web shops. Through these channels, we started to carry a number of our own brands (Safe, Pleasurelab, Willie Toys and Explicit Blue), combining our consumer insights on existing products with the expertise of manufacturers.
Recently, we developed several products in close cooperation with students from TU Delft, a leading university in the field of industrial design. By now, we have created a very broad portfolio of products and brands for the b2b market, which enables us to optimally serve different target groups.
We also distribute products of several leading brands within Europe. It’s nice to see that we do our work so well that brands from the US and other countries have confidence in us to handle their European distribution.
Rits, what is your role in the wholesale activities of CLS Healthcare and what is your career background?
Originally, I was a brand manager for Safe Condoms; since last year, I have been managing all wholesale activities, from product development to marketing, sales and client services.
Before CLS, I started out in hospitality and after that, I did sales for various companies; mainly food and fashion. I’d love to say that all the pieces fell together and that I can finally pursue my passion, selling sex toys and condoms, but in reality, I ended up at CLS through a personal friend. She told me of a job opportunity at CLS. I genuinely enjoy it, we work with an inspiring, young team. I like the flexibility and the rapid developments in this market. If you don’t pay attention for two weeks, you’re gone.
One of the things I am proud of is that I was able to take part in the development of our handling and distribution. We now have a distribution centre the size of two football fields at our disposal, with an advanced system of computer-controlled carts, packaging and billing, dramatically increasing efficiency and decreasing cut-off time, allowing for fast delivery through all of Europe. We are happy that we now handle distribution for a number of leading international brands, and we are in talks to offer this service to others.
Product development is complicated but rewarding. Especially if we succeed in creating something new. Technological developments like 3D-printing have made it economically viable for smaller companies to design new products, and through our cooperation with TU Delft, research and development is becoming increasingly important for CLS Healthcare.
Willie Toys and Pleasurelab are both sex toy brands. How do they differ and what are their respective target audiences?
Willie Toys is aimed at a younger target group that pays a lot of attention to the price / quality ratio of products. With Willie Toys, we offer attractively priced variants of big-selling items. Think of products like a duo vibrator, a mable masturbator, and a bondage set. Because of their attractive pricing, these products are suitable for consumers who want to ‘try something out’. We see that consumers will eventually, through Willie Toys, switch to more premium priced products.
With Pleasurelab we also lean on existing concepts, but by adding our own ‘twist’ we try to make these products stand out. We also have the ambition to develop new concepts and bring them to the market through our collaboration with TU Delft. Developing a product from scratch is a lengthy and costly process. So clearly these products will be more exclusive in terms of pricing. Aimed at a target group that’s more seasoned when it comes to toys, and more inclined to experiment.
After eight years in the market, Safe is a well-established condom brand. How do you make sure the consumers continue to trust this brand, and which products are marketed under its label?
SAFE is known as the economical alternative for consumers who do not want to compromise on quality. With a wide range of condoms and lubricants, there’s a top-quality product for everyone, at a competitive price. But we continue to improve the product. We recently did a restyling of the brand identity and packaging. In addition, we decided to remove products such as sex toys and massage oils from the range and return to the core elements of the brand: a large diversity of top quality condoms, at an attractive price.
We are really proud of the new brand identity and the clear, focused proposition. We are now going ahead with expanding the assortment of condoms and the translation of the new corporate identity into all deliverables, such as the website and POS materials. SAFE is ready for the future.
Lingerie is a cornerstone of every erotic shop and B2B. What has CLS have to offer in that department?
CLS Healthcare offers ZimBra, a collaboration with Zimra Geurts, a versatile and talented young woman – entrepreneur, glamor model, journalist. and director. The slogan actually tells the whole story. Beautiful lingerie should not just be available to a limited group of women. ZimBra is a collection of lingerie in large and small sizes with a lot of attention and that makes every woman feel sexy.
Last but not least, your brand Explicit Blue offers supplements that help induce erections and improve sexual performance. There are already lots of supplements on the market. What makes Explicit Blue stand out?
At the moment, we offer a supplement with Explicit Blue to improve the ‘sexual health’ (and with that, the quality of an erection), and a gel for men to postpone climax. We strive to expand the range with qualitative products that can contribute to the user’s sexual health, without creating expectations that the product cannot deliver. We take the consumers seriously. We hope to distinguish ourselves through the quality of the ingredients and the clear and informative descriptions of the products.
Is Explicit Blue freely available in all European countries?
Since all products are made of natural ingredients, availability should not be an issue. However, regulations on supplements do offer challenges in some countries, but we are currently working on.
Having the right products are one thing, but customer service is also an important aspect of wholesale. How does CLS make sure that you meet the needs of your customers in this regard?
Answering these kinds of questions usually results in a summary of platitudes. Sure, we are transparent, flexible, cooperative, and accurate. But if I had to choose one element that best describes our commitment, it is probably working together with clients on distinctive and effective offers.
What can you tell us about CLS’s plans for the future? Will we see more brands or innovative products in you established labels?
One of the things that we are planning for the foreseeable future is a crowdfunding campaign for a male masturbator in the Pleasurelab line. A product that is really new and innovative. We find it interesting to take on the development of this product together with the target group. That is also an experiment for us and experimenting fits well within the profile of the brand. The development of the product and the marketing around it are then fully integrated. We are curious to see how this will go.