Nonfoods Talk: Getting intimate

Intimacy products are no longer taboo and grocers that manage the section properly can prosper. 

It is time for supermarket retailers to get more intimate with their customers—both male and female.

As more and more suppliers flood the marketplace with intimacy products and new, more flashy types of condoms, retailers need to take a closer look at their sections to determine if they are doing enough to make it easy for consumers to pick and choose these items.
From one angle, I can tell you that a lot of retailers—especially grocery stores—are not doing all they can to help foster sales growth in the intimacy category. A trip to five supermarket chains in suburban New York found that just one put all of their intimacy and contraceptive products on store shelves. Three retailers kept condoms behind the pharmacy and one did not even appear to sell any intimacy products at all.

It has been said before and is worth saying again—Sex Sells. The old argument that consumers do not want to purchase these items in the same store that they buy fruit, vegetables and cereals holds very little water.

In fact, retailers must realize that most consumers under the age of 40 have almost no inhibitions when it comes to talking about sex with their peers—of either gender. They also have very few qualms about purchasing products that either help make the experience of sex more interesting or protect them against sexually transmitted diseases.

The fact is that with television shows talking about virtually every topic imaginable and commercials harping on the benefits of a multitude of erectile dysfunction products, retailers need to understand that just about everything is okay with their customers today. There is no longer any need to hide their products behind a professional at the pharmacy counter (outside of pilferage concerns) or simply not carry items that could make some old lady in Peoria blush from embarrassment.

Now, retailers need to make it clear to all of their shoppers that they carry these products and purchasing them can be done with no such embarrassment or condescending looks from nosey cashiers or busy-body customers. Putting these products out in the open and treating them like any other health care product will go a long way to accomplishing these goals.

Of course, there are limits. The supermarket is not designed to be a sex shop. Retailers need to stay on cue with their customers to make sure that they offer merchandise that will not cross the line of acceptability to consumers in each store’s neighborhood. At this point, I think most merchants understand where the line should be drawn.

As with any other category, retailers must look for the right products to carry. For example, the condom category has proliferated in recent years to the point that there are dozen of players in the field. From this perspective, stocking a healthy assortment of merchandise from the three major players in the field is probably enough to get the job done.

Lubricants and other sex devices are much newer to the scene and need to be examined much more closely for quality.

Regardless, retailers need to take advantage of any category that is growing. And, right now, sex is hot.

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