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How the sexual wellness category is benefiting from innovation and increased shelf space

Industry experts in the space point to a number of trends, including product variety, that have helped boost sales.
Nora Caley

Consumers might not want to spend much time in the sexual wellness aisle, but they do want to buy products. Retailers that make it easy for shoppers to find the newest sex toys, lubricants and condoms can thrive in the category, which has been growing. While the pandemic drove some sales increases, the current boost comes from innovative companies offering product variety and educational information.

One of the biggest trends is that retailers have expanded their offerings in store, and that has driven an increase in basket rings. “The growth in shelf space allocated to sexual wellness devices lifted the entire planogram,” said Alan Cooper, vice president of food, drug and mass sales at Las Vegas-based Trigg Laboratories. “There is a halo effect, especially for personal lubricants. Someone buys a toy for $30, and they spend an extra $10 or $15 to pick up personal lubricant.”

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Another important trend is major retailers have improved the product presentations on their websites and apps, providing all the information consumers desire to make informed product selections. “With richer, better-quality content available on digital to explain the health and performance benefits of a pure silicone personal lubricant, there has been an increase in the number of customers stepping up from basic water-based lube to premium products like Wet Platinum from the company’s luxury collection,” Cooper said. 

Condoms are regarded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as Class II medical devices, a designation that also includes pregnancy tests and powered wheelchairs.

The increased shelf space points to another trend — that more women are buying the products. “It’s fantastic alone to see the dedicated aisle now encompassing the range of women’s sexual health-and-wellness needs in one place, but now we can see the shelf space is growing,” said Stephanie Trachtenberg, director of marketing and PR at New York City-based Satisfyer. “This proves that we are learning to meet women’s needs where they are.” 

Consumers are embracing a holistic approach to health and wellness, and sexual pleasure is now part of a lifestyle. “This is an important message we are continuing to deliver through our marketing and PR efforts,” Trachtenberg said. “Incorporating sexual health into your routine may now look like complementing your Satisfyer with a facial mask just after to optimize the benefits of increased blood flow.”

[Read more: Personal pleasures: Sexual wellness evolves at retail]

Many consumers were first-time purchasers of Satisfyer during the COVID-19 pandemic. As they learn about the benefits of the sex toys, they will seek the next new product. “This is where standout innovation will win,” Trachtenberg said. 

“In pursuit of more interesting sexual experiences, we’re seeing a lot of growth and opportunity for the lubricant and device categories.” — Ken DeBaene, vice president of sales, Americas at LifeStyles

The pandemic also boosted online sales, as consumers sought discreet and convenient purchasing options. “The pandemic has also played a role in the types of products consumers are seeking,” said Ken DeBaene, vice president of sales, Americas at LifeStyles. “Consumers are trying out new items and becoming savvier, making it easier to normalize the conversation and usher in more products that help them explore.” 

The South Eselin, N.J.-based LifeStyles makes the Skyn brand of condoms and sexual enhancement devices. According to the Skyn 2021 Sex & Intimacy Survey, 39% of respondents reported experiencing an increased sex drive since the start of the pandemic, and 38% of respondents said they were experimenting more in bed since the start of the pandemic. “In pursuit of more interesting sexual experiences, we’re seeing a lot of growth and opportunity for the lubricant and device categories,” DeBaene said. 

[Read more: Good vibrations: Retailers see success embracing new areas of sexual wellness]

Another important consumer group is millennials, and Okamoto U.S.A. uses social media to reach them. “This is a young audience who already has access to highly sexualized imagery and messaging in media,” said Carol Carrozza, marketing manager at the Florham Park, N.J.-based company, which makes Wink condoms. “They don’t need that. They want honesty in their products.” 

They are establishing behaviors and patterns as they become mature adults, so they need information. Carrozza pointed out that condoms, used to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, are a Class II medical device regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. “We’re not talking about a silly little product here,” she said. The clean, straightforward packaging and the social media messaging focus on Wink’s thinness and strength. “We don’t believe in the hyperbole, the misdirection. We give them the basic features and benefits in a clear, direct way.”

Product Picks


Satisfyer Finger Vibes, SRP: $19.95
Designed to seamlessly work as an intuitive extension of the user’s own touch, Satisfyer’s new finger vibes have an ergonomic easy-to-use design and centralized vibration motor with flexible wings and 12 different programs. The products, made of body-friendly silicone, have a lithium-ion battery and a magnetic charging cable. The finger vibes are waterproof to the IPX7 standard. 

LifeStyles Skyn Dual Ring, SRP: $19.99 and Skyn Caress, SRP: $39.99
Skyn, a brand from LifeStyles, is addressing consumer demand for new devices by adding several innovations to its portfolio. The most recent of these launches are Skyn Dual Ring, a vibrating ring designed for partnered pleasure, and Skyn Caress, a clitoral stimulator for partnered or solo play. 

Trigg Laboratories Wet Essential 95, SRP: $7.99 
Wet Essential 95 is a premium personal lubricant made with 95% organic content. The ingredients are Oregon Tilth Certified Organic and are sourced from a sustainable supply chain. The lubricant is compatible with latex or polyisoprene condoms and is glycerin free and paraben free. Also available is a three-pack of 1-oz. containers of the lubricants Wet Essential 95, Wet Platinum Pure Silicone and Wet Water-Based Flavored. The three-packs are designed for variety and new product trial while being suitable for travel, as the 1-oz. bottles are TSA-friendly. 

Okamoto Industries Wink Closer, SRP: $16.99 for 10-pack 
Okamoto Industries makes Wink condoms, which the company said are extremely thin and incredibly strong. The best seller is Closer, which are 0.04-mm thin, lubricated, latex condoms. They are soft, ultra sheer and triple tested to meet industry standards. Also available from Wink are Slider, Studded and Large condoms. 

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