Can Sex Toys Save the Economy

10/06/2009 4:00 AM |

Despite that depressing article in the Times a few weeks ago about our fair city’s unemployment rate hitting 10.3 percent, I’m uncharacteristically optimistic right now. Sure, I can’t get a job interview to save my life and the same article said that New York still has a year to go before we’re out of the recession, but the weather’s been great, my job hasn’t been taxing at all (largely because I’m rarely there) and I have a houseguest with whom I’ve been having EXCITING ADVENTURES all over the city. Who needs a savings or good credit when I can be happy right now, eh?

While I was doing a little research for this column (yes, I actually do that) I came across this article about the high-end sex toy industry booming during economic downturns, which was sort of exactly what I’d intended this column to be about… (So does this show that I’m a New York Times caliber writer even though I talk about butts a lot? Yes.)

I’d like to corroborate the upshot of that article, which is that sex toys are a recession-proof business. Particularly if you’re hawking upscale toys in a welcoming atmosphere filled with attractive young people (like me).

Despite the overall economic climate in New York we made our* sales goal for the month of September, as apparently there are always people out there willing to pay $100 for a vibrator. Maybe it’s because the store is in a wealthy neighborhood or maybe people think an exorbitant price tag on a sex toy suggests a toe-curling sexual experience. Either way, sex toy stores are getting paaaaaaaaiiddd.

The only spending trend change I’ve noticed is that I haven’t seen too many International Big Spenders this season: people from the UAE, Japan, Europe and Russia (generally) who spend at least a grand like it ain’t no thang. My favorite of these customers was a woman from the UAE who came in last summer with her bodyguard to buy out the shop. I can’t remember exactly how much money she spent, but it was at least $1,500 and it was clear she was spending just to spend, for the thrill of it, not because she particularly wanted any of the items. That is the kind of relationship with money that I will never have and it boggles my mind to see it in action.

Sex toys pretty much sell themselves and it’s easy to talk someone into buying a high-end toy. However, I pride myself on being honest with customers. I never encourage anyone to buy something just because it’s expensive and I discourage people from buying some of the pricier toys that I genuinely think are no good (unless the customer is a complete d-bag in which case I let them buy stupid crap).

That said, for the most part, more expensive toys generally are better, particularly when it comes to dildos. People don’t hesitate to put jelly rubber dildos in their bodies but they’re all treated with a softener that’s a known carcinogen. The good stuff is all silicone, which is pricey, but generally viewed as being worth it.

Recently, a tall bald man in a business suit came in to ask me a couple of questions about the sex toy business. He said he was considering investing in high-end real sex dolls with some sort of robotic component, which meant they’d have to retail for several thousand. He wanted to know if we thought they’d sell.

I told him I thought they would. Not in a brick and mortar retail setting, but I definitely think people would by them online because I don’t think there’s a price cap on how much people are willing to pay for sex toys.

That’s why it’s an ideal business to get into. Future entrepreneurs are you listening?

* I hate that I just called it “our goal.” It’s their goal not my goal. Remember that, Wilkinson.