For many of you, having sex is most likely as easy as falling off a log. Or tripping over and falling on a log. Whatever. And many of you may also be PhD’s in the department of fun accoutrements that can be employed with one or more partners (or perhaps none at all). However, a visit to the adult toy store may still seem a bit daunting, to a certain someone who still has to go to CVS in sunglasses and a fake mustache after having the pleasure of running into Aunt Bernice and several cousins whilst stocking up on condoms and Gatorade.
Well, put those fears to rest. I’m proud to introduce Kayla, Manager of Secret Desires adult toy store in the People’s Republic of Santa Monica. She’s a seasoned expert and talented salesperson (salesmistress?) who knows the latest and greatest when it comes to sex toys and is passionate about educating the masses on how to get that mojo up and running.
ARIEL: Hi Kayla! It’s a real pleasure to have you on Ken and Ariel.com. Why don’t you tell us a little about the store Secret Desires?
KAYLA: Sure. We sell adult toys, DVDs, books and accessories to the general public, 18 and over of course. Our customers are primarily female and/or couples, so we tend to carry products geared towards them; we’ll get groups of women coming into the store for bachelorette parties, so we carry lots of products for those kinds of parties as well.
ARIEL: When I visited I noticed there was a female employee behind the counter, and that immediately put me at ease.
KAYLA: Yes, we mostly employ women, with a few guys who work the nights or late weekend nights. Employees are trained to have a general knowledge of the products, and are expected to be able to educate and answer general questions without getting too…technical.
ARIEL: (laughs) right, I get it. No need for them to provide play-by-play commentary. And tell me about the toys you carry.
KAYLA: We sell boutique toys; we found the really phallic toys don’t seem to sell as well, so we carry a few of those but mostly glass toys, attractive and aesthetically pleasing. Also, the way the store is designed is for a comfortable, positive experience: it’s clean, brightly lit, decorated with light colors. We also carry merchandise for men, too.
ARIEL: So your demographic is primarily women?
KAYLA: Yes, women with disposable income; my favorites are the baby boomers that come in, perhaps recently divorced and buying their first sex toy, or their husbands suffer from erectile dysfunction and have come at their doctor’s suggestion. Older couples who are comfortable with their bodies and want to try something new are a lot of fun.
ARIEL: I read an article in USA Today recently that said the big-box stores are going to start carrying adult toys. Do you think this will help or hinder your business?
KAYLA: Oh, I think it will only help us. CVS has been carrying Trojan vibrators for a while, which are non-phallic and discreetly packaged. The big-box stores will most likely do the same…there’s a limit on what they’ll be able to carry without getting heat for it. As manager, it’s my job to stay on top of trends and be the first to bring it to our customers. We can not only provide that to our customers, but we have more selection, more salespeople who are knowledgeable, and the customers can see the products, touch it, etc.
ARIEL: Take it out for a test drive! Tell me, Kayla; what’s your experience with adult stores and how they’ve changed over the years?
KAYLA: The adult store experience is definitely evolving. The “jack shack” with the blacked-out windows, horrible décor, and seedy atmosphere may still be around but their presence is becoming less and less. Hustler really made a splash with their flagship store on Sunset Boulevard, with big windows and bright displays, made the sex toy shopping experience cool.
ARIEL: Yeah, but I’d say they’re more focused on brand recognition and promotion, as opposed to sex toy education.
KAYLA: Yes, true. Our focus is on giving our customers the best information of what’s out there.
ARIEL: So how did you get into this business?
KAYLA: I got a job in an adult store in college; it was a fun experience; a great store, most of our customers were gay. But the novelty wears off really quick. It’s a job, like anywhere else; you have responsibilities and duties, you don’t just sit around and watch porn all day or play with sex toys.
ARIEL: Is that the expectation, that it will just be like Disneyland?
KAYLA: For a lot of people, yes. I mean it’s understandable. But again, the thrill of being around sex toys all day goes away when you have to take out the trash or sweep up, restock shelves, etc. It’s work.
ARIEL: I bet you’ve met some pretty colorful characters in your travels.
KAYLA: Yes; like I said, lots of people want to work at these kinds of stores for the novelty, the thrill. And of course, everyone wants the discount. At previous stores I’ve seen women approached by guys who want to “make movies” and really don’t have their best interests at heart. These women may be vulnerable, and they get themselves in a situation that they can’t get out of. Or they’re working there solely for their boyfriends, supplying their porn habits. In one instance, this guy was trying to pimp out his girlfriend to guys that came in the store!
ARIEL: Yikes! So how long have you worked in the industry?
KAYLA: About 16-17 years; I became a buyer, moved to Europe, then in various chains in different US cities. Longevity like mine is not typical; there’s a lot of turnover.
ARIEL: And you? What keeps you going?
KAYLA: I’m passionate about what I do. I love educating people, about their bodies, about how they can pleasure themselves. I’m really good at reading people; I know exactly who that customer is when they walk through that door; that’s what any good salesperson knows. I let them look around, give them space to browse, then help them out.
ARIEL: It’s a noble calling, I think!
KAYLA: (laughs) Yeah, I guess.
Tomorrow: Kayla shares the top-selling toys and gives her recommendations on how to make adult playtime TONS of FUN.