While other sales channels are struggling for a variety of well-known reasons, the homeparty business – i.e. direct distribution of vibrators, dildos, and other intimate products – is booming. One of the benefactors of this development is Dutch company Ladies Night Homeparties. Eric Vonke, the head of Ladies Night, tells us more about the recent developments in the homeparty segment in general, and the developments and changes at his company in particular.
If you had to come to a conclusion about the year 2018 today, what would it be in terms of a) your company and b) the erotic market as a whole? Eric Vonke: a) We have grown again in 2018 and have introduced many revolutionary products to our assortment, we have visited more women than ever, and we have improved on all fronts, from customer service to product development, team building, recruitment, etc. b) There really has been a big shift in the business with Beate Uhse going bankrupt, and I see the number of successful online shops declining drastically.
Has the distribution channel for home parties grown in volume this year or has it remained the same compared to the previous year?
Overall, it has absolutely grown in volume. Although summer was a little slower because of two months of extremely hot weather.
How do you explain this development and what are the driving forces behind it?
I think that we are being embraced by both new and existing customers who love our parties. They see it as a concept of an entertaining evening instead of just a sales show. Our agents are the driving force, helped by our amazing team of managers and staff.
At the end of 2017 you launched your lingerie home parties. How has your new business developed so far?
To be honest, it has not been the steep curve of parties and agents that we expected, but we are spoiled by our regular parties of course. But if we compare it with our toys parties back in year one, it has already exceeded those numbers.
Can you draw on experience from your established business in these new activities? Are there synergies?
Well, for sure there are synergies… we have a customer base of over 400.000 women, so we can easily target them with our marketing. And our experience certainly helps us in further developing the lingerie segment, but we see that there are also differences. Lingerie parties are not really the parties where everybody will giggle and laugh a lot. So, getting the entertainment factor in the lingerie parties is a challenge.
Back to your toy parties: Everyone’s talking about sex tech. How popular are sex toys based on modern technologies among your customers?
Our party customers hardly ask about them. I think it is a niche with a small numbers of enthusiasts. Sure, there are expats and people who have their partners overseas or at long distance, and they want to remotely control each others’ toys, but I doubt if that is a large market. And real-life sex dolls? Well, as you know, our customers are female and I don’t see them buying one of those …
There is a big discussion about whether traditional vibrator technology has passed its zenith and is being replaced by new kinds of stimulation. Do you see this development as well?
That is so hard to tell. I always thought the power of the traditional vibrators was in their shapes, although in different sizes, strengths, etc.? Well, there you have your answer. Ergonomic improvements will always take place, the feel of the material, the strength of vibration, and the efficiency of the vibrator. But we welcome all new ideas, and we will certainly add them to our assortment if somebody invents new ways of stimulation.
And what about toys for men that are currently booming in our market?
We only sell to women at the parties and they rather spend the money on themselves or on couples’ toys. If they buy something for their men, it’s usually not very expensive. The market is funny that way; toys for women and couples are far more appealing than toys for men. Ask a woman if it turns her on if she sees a man with a masturbator in bed. I think we can all predict the answer is ‘no’ in almost all cases.
There is much talk about the growing acceptance of love toys in society. Where do we stand today? Which experiences has your company made in this regard?
When we started almost 15 years ago, we really had to break down taboos. People didn’t talk about love toys. Even amongst friends… girls, they hardly spoke about it. People said we were crazy when we introduced our parties. They said women would never get together and talk about sex and love toys. Well, guess who was wrong?
Today, our parties are seen more and more as an entertaining evening for women. And the acceptance of love toys is common now. Women who come to a party shy are leaving with a big smile. There has been a shift from the porn-associated toys of the past to the love toys of the past 15 years. Toys are love now where they were once considered porn.
“When we started almost 15 years ago, we really had to break down taboos.”
Your company has its own public relations department, which handles both traditional media and social media. How important is such a connection to the mainstream media and the direct connection to your customers?
Although important, social media is also the hardest way to make and keep the connection with our customers. Facebook and Instagram are very strict in their policies, in such a way that it is almost impossible not to cross their lines if you want to advertise or engage people with the subjects we care about. Having a very strong bond with your customers means that you have to have excellent customer service, excellent products, and an excellent team. In terms of traditional media, we cooperate with the larger magazines, we appear on television every once in a while and our opinion is often asked for sex related subjects. We even have our own sexologist now. She is a famous Belgian woman called Kaat Bollen. She is also our spokesperson in some of the media.