The times, are they a changin’?

For some time, we have been hearing about big companies from the e-commerce segment planning to introduce their own brick and mortar stores. Now, Amazon has officially taken the first step. Will this development create a pull effect, is it only a short-lived phenomenon, or could this mark a resurgence of the brick and mortar trade – also in the adult market?

matze_pc_webMatthias Poehl

Let’s start by stating the obvious: The brick and mortar trade was written off too soon. The retail segment has been in a difficult position for years, starting with the disappearance of traditional ‘old school’ sex shops, followed by the change in consumer purchasing habits and the decline of inner city shopping as well as overwhelming competition on the internet – yes, it was indeed a difficult time. The general sentiment was bad, the trade was groaning, and many experts (including the self-proclaimed variety) prophesised that walk-in stores would die a slow but inevitable death.

And now? Do we see the brick and mortar trade rising from the ashes like a phoenix? Well, that would be going a bit too far. After all, the brick and mortar trade has always had effective, successful concepts, even in the dark days. And it was never really gone. Of course, the number of adult retail stores is nowhere near as big as it once was, and it cannot be disputed that the market has shrunk and is now accommodating fewer players – with some smaller players pushed off the game board by the bigger players. But isn’t that exactly the same thing that is happening in other markets as well? And credit where credit is due, some experts – including the self-proclaimed variety – have stated that there will always be consumers yearning for that special shopping experience only a brick and mortar store can deliver.

Which is 100% true. We know a lot more about the consumers and their wishes today, and as it turns out, they take the liberty to consume whenever, whatever, and however they please. So, when people talk about consumers who want personal service, who want to pick up the product and look at it up close … Well, that’s not something brick and mortar retailers are making up. It is a fact based on experience. Also, there has to be a reason if giant companies from the e-commerce sphere open their own brick and mortar stores – as Amazon did – or are at least thinking about taking that step. It is a feasible business move that promises sales and profits. And as omnipotent as the e-commerce segment may seem, it does have certain weak points and flaws that do not exist in the brick and mortar segment, and there are consumers who are more concerned about these weak spots than others; consumers who are drawn to different sales channels as a result.

But does this development in the mainstream market also apply to the adult realm? Going by the stories we have published in EAN these past months, it certainly looks that way. At the very least, there are strong indicators. Of course, that doesn’t mean that adult retail stores are popping up in cities around Europe like daisies, but it does mean that the brick and mortar trade is aware of its strengths, and that it is more confident and more aggressive in flaunting them than it was in previous years. Maybe this will create a positive knock-on effect, a new sort of dynamic that can open more people’s minds to the idea that brick and mortar adult stores are a viable business model well worth an investment.