“To understand the present, you must respect the past.”
The industry for adult products is always looking ahead, focusing on the way the market will develop in the future. So much so that many people forget where the roots of this industry lie and where it all began. Vitenza has taken a look at the long and fascinating history of the adult market, visualising the results in the form of an info graphic. The timeline begins in the 1960s and sheds light on important milestones that marked the following decades. And as always, the past also holds lessons that are important for the future of the market. Sam Ruddy, UK Business Manager of Vitenza, told us more about the project in our EAN interview. Click here to see the whole infographic!
What inspired you to create an information graphic showing the history of the erotic industry from its early beginnings until today?
Sam Ruddy: The sex industry we all work in, especially online and offline adult stores, is a hugely successful market. Websites and shops are selling to wider range of people, from all walks of life, than ever before and profit because of it. I was very interested in learning how this had come to be. When I started digging, it was fascinating to learn things had not always been this way and was amazed by far the industry has come over the last fifty years.
To what purpose will you use the information graphic?
To understand the present, you must respect the past. Our success and the success of the Vitenza clients really is down to the various and numerous liberations and movements of the last half century, which have made society more open to exploring their sexuality. You can read through the information on our graphic to find out a little bit more about how we have reached the point where we are at now, with adult stores and what could lay in wait in years to come.
How did you proceed in creating the graphic? What instruments, sources etc., did you use?
Design was an important factor. It would have been pointless to have a really great, informative graphic that no one wanted to read, if it looked dull. The colour scheme, icons and style were all carefully considered to help make it as eye catching as we could. Authority was also key, we couldn’t just spout any random figures or dates, otherwise the reader wouldn’t take us seriously. All of the numbers are sourced from journals, articles and sales data, so you know what you are reading is real and can be relied on.
Were there any surprises during your research? What aspect of the history of the erotic industry fascinated you the most?
The whole research process was very interesting for me. With a couple of years’ experience of this industry, I am still relatively ‘fresh’ to it. To learn more about the rich heritage of the sex industry and the adult store has provided me with a great amount of context about the market. I can now take this into my daily work and I am confident it will help me better serve my clients.
Do you feel that the industry is forgetting its trailblazers?
The influence of history’s trailblazers is seen throughout the many sites and physical stores in the UK. For instance, there are now shops that are dedicated to and celebrate female sexuality, in the same way there are other places that do the same for the gay market. Without the likes of feminist or gay rights trailblazers, sex shops would still be orientated towards heterosexual men only. The industry continuously honours its trailblazers, even if it’s in a passive way.
What were the most fundamental changes in the erotic industry since the early 1960s?
Each movement or liberation is fundamental in its own right; as it helped a group of people, who were not recognised as sexual beings before, gain acknowledgment and respect. Men and women, of all sexual orientation have erotic fantasies or fetishes that they want to explore, changes in the industry have allowed these people to indulge them.
Many people say the erotic industry would be very different from what it is today if it weren’t for the e-commerce channel of distribution. Do you agree?
As you already know, e-commerce allows for customers from all over the world to be targeted, from one location. A site, ran out of an office in London, can easily distribute on a pan-European level. If this was not available to the industry, clients would have to be targeted on a more local scale, so there would be more obvious limitations. Yes, I do agree that the erotic scene would be different without e-commerce. It reaches out to people on a global scale, allowing them to get products and items they would not necessarily have access to otherwise.
Where does the industry stand now? How would you describe the industry status quo?
You are now seeing adult stores at home on the high street and in shopping centres, rather than down the dingy back alleys they were born into. The fact that they are becoming a more regular part of retail demonstrates that there is a real acceptance from society towards sex shops; they are normal to see. We think this can only be a good thing in terms of growing customer bases and sales. From an online perspective, many websites report year on year increase in the amount of traffic they receive and the amount of sales they see as well. In addition, it is not uncommon to see big name online adult stores advertising on television. Again, this shows that people are happy to embrace the industry on an ever-increasing level.
Do you have any concerns about the erotic industry losing its unique appeal and character by going through all these changes? Is the industry headed in a direction where it won’t be distinguishable from other industries?
How can an industry that boasts so much weird and wonderful elements ever lose its appeal? As the old adage says, sex sells. Where other retailers sell sex implicitly, you buy clothes to look good, to hopefully attract someone and possibly have sex with them, our industry allows the customers to explore their sexuality directly. All of the things this industry has to offer, from lube to leather, will always appeal. What’s more, from my own experience, those that work in an adult store provide some of the best customer service I have ever seen in retail. This sticks out in the mind of a customer and will encourage them to come back time and again. Few other industries will treat their customers in the same kind of way.
If we look back, we also have to look ahead – what does the future of the erotic industry look like?
As highlighted in the infographic, I think the next big thing we will see is technology. The like of virtual reality and premium grade, robotic toys are already starting to gain traction in the market. It is fair to say that the sex industry is one dominated by gimmick and I am confident this will be the next one customers will be obsessed with. For sex shops and online adult stores, I think there is a fantastic opportunity to carry on building on the foundations that are in place now. I would expect a few more shops to make their way onto the high street and for them and websites alike to advertise in a more public way, like on TV, rather than in the back pages of lads mags, as they have done for years.
For 2020 you predict a global sales volume of 40 billion GBP for erotic products. Why are you so optimistic?
The figures suggest that sales are already estimated to exceed £24 billion-a year, which is nearly five times what it was only four years ago, in 2012. Opportunities and new ventures will continue to grow the market over the next four years.