“Shopping in brick and mortar stores seems to be becoming more appealing again.“
It’s probably a bit too soon to talk about a renaissance of the adult brick and mortar trade, but there is definitely a sense of optimism in our interview with Jens Seipp, the head of marketing and communication at ORION Fachgeschäfte GmbH & Co KG, Germany’s biggest retail chain for the erotic market. As Jens explains, consumers seem to show greater interest in shopping at brick and mortar stores again, and they are also willing to spend more money on erotic products. Apart from the situation in the retail trade, we also talk about the past year, which was a period of change and expansion for ORION Fachgeschäfte GmbH & Co KG.
Before we talk about the present and the future, let’s start by taking a look back. Are you happy with the way 2019 turned out for ORION Fachgeschäfte GmbH & Co KG.
Jens Seipp: Exciting and successful – I believe these two words best describe the memories I and the team at ORION Fachgeschäfte have of 2019.
And what made the year exciting and successful?
The company underwent some major changes in 2019 as we took over twelve former Beate Uhse stores and continued to digitise various processes and systems. Change is always exciting, and in this case, it also contributed to our success.
How much of an advantage is it to be a market leader with a well-known name? Is it easier for big ships to weather storms than for small ones?
I think there are advantages and disadvantages to anything. In many cases, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference whether you implement a project in 150 stores or just in one store. At the end of the day, we have to pay attention to each and every location and look at them individually. But yes, being a big store chain opens up some exciting options, and the recognition value and the level of trust in the ORION brand are major contributors to our success.
Which trends did you see in the retail trade in 2019? What inspired the consumers to visit erotic stores? Which products flew off the shelves?
As far as we can tell, shopping in brick and mortar stores seems to be becoming more appealing again. The customers appreciate the good service, the advice, the personal contact. Many couples enjoy shopping for products together; it is an experience for them, and they spend a long time in our stores. As for top-sellers, that list is obviously still topped by sex toys, with high-quality products being particularly sought after. The consumers seem to be setting much greater store by quality now, which is great. Also, many customers buy couples toys. That is definitely a trend.
Compared to previous years, have you noticed any changes in the composition of your customer base?
Well, as mentioned before, we see more couples in our stores, who want to enjoy the experience of shopping together. Aside from that, we get more young people in our stores. The age average of our customers has definitely gone down over the course of the past few years, which is a development we welcome very much. As a matter of fact, we are going to focus more on that group in our upcoming campaigns and promotions.
What about the challenges and problems that faced the market in 2019? Were those largely the same issues that have plagued the retail trade in previous years?
Brick and mortar retailers largely face the same challenges they have faced before. They need a great product range, motivated and qualified sales personnel, and the stores need to be appealing from the outside and on the inside. Standing your ground against the competition on the internet is about much more than just prices; to keep your customers and win over new ones, you need to be able to offer first-class sales support and service. Those are the things people can only get in brick and mortar stores. That’s how it has been in the past, and that is how it will be in the future.
Running a successful retail store – let alone a retail chain – is a demanding task. Were there any big developments in recent years that made this task easier or more difficult?
Well, things have definitely not become easier. Today, people can order every erotic product on the internet, and many don’t even care to check whether the erotic store down at the corner also has the products they are looking for. Also, there are still bureaucrats who like to throw a spanner in the works whenever they can. In some places, we feel like we have to fight much harder to get a location greenlit than was the case in the past.
If you believe the media, Germans seem to be more willing to spend their disposable income again. Does that make you optimistic about 2020, or is the erotic retail trade a different animal than the mainstream market?
We are always sceptic when people make such statements. We prefer relying on concrete data that we can see and analyse ourselves. Admittedly, our data also indicates that the consumers are ready to spend more money on erotic products than before. However, this is a trend that has gone on for several years now, and there are many reasons for it. The fact that people feel no need to be parsimonious right now is probably one of these reasons, but on the other hand, there are also studies claiming that we Germans are still obsessed with saving our money, in spite of years of low interest rates.
You took over five stores of Magic X Retail GmbH in 2018 and twelve Beate Uhse stores in 2019, making the ORION chain bigger than ever. Has the number of locations grown since then? How many ORION stores are there today?
With 156 ORION stores and our five MagicX stores, we have a presence in every part of Germany. 58 years after the launch of the company, we are indeed bigger than ever. Obviously, this also has an impact on our headquarters. Therefore, we will create more warehousing space this year to meet the requirements of running so many stores.
One of your biggest competitors, Beate Uhse, has now disappeared from the market. Do you have mixed feelings about the death of this legendary company?
As a matter of fact, I do! We would have wished for a happy ending for this long-standing company. But it is what it is, and obviously, we are also happy that we could incorporate a dozen former Beate Uhse stores into our network, and that most of the sales staff of these stores got to keep their jobs. Now, we seem to be the last big adult store chain in many areas.
What is next for Orion Fachgeschäfte GmbH? Will you continue to expand in 2020? Are there new store openings or takeovers of other stores on the horizon?
This year, we will add to our warehousing space, and while we are at it, we are also going to change a few other things in our headquarters, which is definitely something we are all excited about. The first half of 2020 will see a new store launch in a shopping mall in Jena, Thuringia, and we are in negotiations regarding a handful of other locations. 2019 was largely about the takeover of the Beate Uhse stores; this year, we will focus on revamping and updating existing locations.