“Walking into one of our Simply Pleasure stores is an experience!”

EAN has once again stretched out its feelers to learn about interesting retail companies in the adult market – their history, their concept, their triumphs, and the challenges they face. This time, we turned our attention to Simply Pleasure, a store chain operating in Great Britain. Their first store was opened in 2004, and today, Simply Pleasure welcomes consumers at 28 locations. EAN had the opportunity to talk to Georgia Ashwell, Simply Pleasure’s Area Manager for the Northern part of Britain.

When did the first Simply Pleasure store open?
Georgia Ashwell: The company has been operating for over 30 years under different names, but 2004 in the northwest of England was when the first Simply Pleasure store was opened.

How many stores are there at the moment?
Since we opened our first store, we’ve seen phenomenal growth. Currently, we have 28 Simply Pleasure stores.

Georgia Ashwell
Georgia Ashwell

What does a typical Simply Pleasure look like? What awaits the consumers in your stores?
Walking into one of our Simply Pleasure stores is an experience, and our stores are designed to be light, airy, welcoming, fun and friendly! Our staff really love what they do, and they’re knowledgeable about every product that’s on our shelves. Whether you’re looking for something specific, or just looking to experiment – they’ll know just what to recommend. Each store is stocked to the brim with top of the range toys like Lelo, We-Vibe, Fun Factory, Doxy, Swan and more. We’ve got products for every taste and experience level. So even if you’re a fist time buyer, out staff will make you feel welcome and you’ll leave with something that you really love.

Where are the Simply Pleasure stores located? What type of location do you want for your stores?
A lot of our stores are located close to town centres, which is really convenient, but they’re also discreet enough that people can come in and out of our stores without worry.

What are the strong points of your store chain? Why should a consumer visit a Simply Pleasure store instead of a competing store?
We have expert staff that are passionate about the business and the products we sell, they know all the ins and out of the products and will go out of their way to help you find just what you’re looking for. Since Simply Pleasure opened our doors, our staff has always been a very important part of our business, and they’re a big part of what keeps our customers coming back. We also have a great selection in all our product departments – from toys and lingerie to bondage, DVDs and more.

Which consumer group do you want to cater to? Who is the target audience you are aiming for?
Everyone is welcome in our stores we try to cater for all demographics. Whether you’re a beginner that’s just curious, or a pleasure pro that knows exactly what they want, we’ve ensured that we cater for every experience level, making us very accessible to most customers.

A look at the shops in Mansfield and Exeter
A look at the shops in Mansfield and Exeter

Has this target group changed over the course of the past years? How does Simply Pleasure make sure you keep up with the consumers’ tastes?
In recent years we have seen an increase in women and couples shopping in our stores, which we love! As a result, we’ve increased our selection of toys aimed at these two groups, to ensure we give them plenty of variety to choose from. We have a great selection of toys that are targeted directly at couples to use together for mutual gratification.

Today, women and couples are one of the, if not the biggest target group in the adult industry. Is this development also reflected on the shelves of the Simply Pleasure stores?
Absolutely – we have lots of fun things to offer and enhance couples’ sex lives, while also catering for women. Couple’s toys are really evolving and some incredible toys we offer include the We-Vibe 4 Plus, the Lelo Tiani 24k couples vibrator and the Pulse Duo. As far as toys for women go, our pleasure portfolio is always growing. We stock plenty of toys for women that are just looking to buy their first toy, but we also have really adventurous toys for more experienced women, too. In our stores, the sky really is the limit when it comes to female pleasure!

What do today’s consumers expect when they enter an adult store? What are they looking for? And how important are brands to them?
We are seeing more and more customers coming in and asking about specific brands as they have done their research online before coming into the store. However, not everyone is clued up and that’s where our staff step in and help to educate customers of the benefits of buying better quality brands such as Lelo and We-vibe as they are better value for money.

What has the biggest impact on the consumer’s purchasing decision? The price? The functionality of the product?
It tends to be the functionality – price doesn’t tend to come into it if customers know what they are buying is going to make their life better or more fun. A really good product is an investment in pleasure.

The Simply Pleasure shop in Oldham
The Simply Pleasure shop in Oldham

What role does personal advice play? How important is your sales staff?
Customers always relate well to personal recommendations and little hints and tips from our staff. Customers see us as the “expert” and trust our judgement. Our staff will spend time with customers explaining every intricate detail of a toy if needs be. Our staff are really passionate about or products, and that passion – coupled with plenty of knowledge – makes them such a valuable part of our business.

How strongly do the consumers respond to trends in the adult market, for instance 50 Shades of Grey?
The 50 shades books really gave the stores a boost but the film on the other hand didn’t do much. What is great about the 50 Shades franchise is that customers that were curious about bondage or toys were given the confidence they needed to try them.

How do you pick the products that end up on your shelves? Are there criteria that are particularly important to you?
We focus on quality and innovative ideas. We’re always on the look-out for unique toys that we know our customers will love, and quality is just as important to us. We want to know that what we’re giving our customers is a great product they can rely on.

Simply Pleasure also has an online shop. How important is this e-commerce channel for your business?
Lots of people love to shop online as it is discreet and convenient. Simplypleasure.com plays a big part in our overall business, and we’ve always got great deals running that are exclusively online. For instance, we offer free delivery on orders over £10 and we’ve also got some great Mix and Match offers that include big name brands like System Jo, Tenga, Fleshlight and more.

The Simply Pleasure shops in Loughborough and Swansea
The Simply Pleasure shops in Loughborough and Swansea

How would you describe the current situation in the brick and mortar trade?
It can be challenging but the people that come through the door experience a personal touch, and personal attention and they become return customers. Also, if people want something to use there and then we are obviously the first port of call.

What are the big challenges facing the erotic trade? Competition from the internet? Consumer restraint?
Currently we are waiting for the next external influence to hit the country – a bit like Fifty Shades of Grey. The biggest challenge that we do face is bringing the industry into a more mainstream point of view. We really need to open people’s minds up to the fun they are missing out on!

Will competition become even fiercer in the future since the mainstream market has woken up to the potential of erotic products?
I think in the future – maybe, but the UK still has quite a way to go until that happens. People shop at our stores because we’ve been in the business for over 30 years, and we really know the industry. Our stock selection is always on point and we deliver great customer service. Even if competition does increase, our customers know they can rely on us for excellent advice, fresh products that have just hit the market as well as great variety at a great price.

The Simply Pleasure shops in Hull and Cardiff
The Simply Pleasure shops in Hull and Cardiff

There is a lot of talk about a growing acceptance of sexuality, eroticism, etc. in our society. Does the British retail trade benefit from this development?
Oh very much so! Younger generations are much more open minded and explorative and they’re encouraged to be more in tune with their own sexuality. This definitely benefits the retail trade, but it also gives us the opportunity to cater for an exciting market that’s adventurous, passionate and in tune with their own pleasure.

The brick and mortar trade is moving away from old-fashioned sex shops with a male target audience, towards modern erotic boutiques catering to women and couples. Would you say that this transformation is already completed in the UK?
I wouldn’t say it has fully moved over, there are still seedy little back street shops out there but Simply Pleasure has been moving in that direction for a couple of years now. Women and couples are now an important part of our customer base, and with all the developments in female and couple’s pleasure products, our customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to high quality pleasure products.

How will the situation in the British adult retail trade develop in the future?
Eventually it will become more and more mainstream. Once we have broken down some more barriers, it will become something friends talk about more and more in groups. This will make word of mouth promotion much more acceptable, and we all know that this is one of the best forms of promotion!