The idea of Sally’s Toy came from our personal adventures. The story began in 2010. The then 24-year-old me met the 30-year-old he. Each of us had a previous relationship that lasted more than five years. But either of us had a satisfactory sex life during that time.
This time we wanted to make it right. Only then we realized how ignorant we have been our whole life about sex. Born in a traditional local family, studied in local schools, I had almost zero sex knowledge.
One day he gave me a vibrator that shaped like a cigar, it was a PowerBullet from BMSFactory. He told me to explore myself with it. On that night, I waited till my families were deep asleep. Then I stared at the alien object with no clue what to do with it. So I googled for hours and I learnt more about sex than my entire life! I learnt about the clitoris, how to female masturbate, and so much more. On that very night, I had my first orgasm.
Afterwards, vibrators and other intimate objects have been always around us. They serve two main functions: as a learning tool about my body and just to add more fun in our intimate life.
With a much deeper knowledge about sex and being honest about it, we had a lovely and very comfortable relationship. It turned out sex is very important in a relationship and in life. We wanted to share with others what we have learnt: A quality, healthy sex life makes your life better!
As we ponder deeper into our thoughts, having a quality sex life means much more than merely getting an orgasm from time to time. The whole experience, the mood, the feelings, they all matter. That’s why we are not just another sex shop. We are an Intimate Lifestyle Store. It’s a small shop that sell knowledge first, and product second. We promote how to have a quality, fulfilling sex life and relationship with our careful product selection of fine, quality and safe intimate objects.
How serious is the experience of a well-made quality intimate object, especially for first-timers? Imagine your first sip of red wine, or your first oyster. If you started with inferior stuff, you may think that all red wine and oysters in the world taste terrible. With that in mind, we only offer products with the best quality, best safety and the ones that really perform well.
When we decided we were going to do start a sex shop, we had zero experiences in running a retail business. But luckily Picco was a good programmer so we created our online shop without outside help. From there we explored our way into our own sex toy adventures.
What are your store trading hours/days and how many days or hours a week do you work in your business?
Our stores open from 12:00 noon to 8:00pm. We basically work 24/7, even in the shower we discuss what our next marketing campaign will be like.
What do you love most about your adult retail business?
We don’t have sales people, we don’t have customer service personnel. We are Intimate Stylists. We use our professional expertise to curate the best ideas that light up your intimate life.
We love that when customers have a better sex life because of our advice and our help. And we love that our Intimate Stylists love what they do.
What are some of the best things your business has done.
We are proud that some NGOs (non-government organizations) consider us as an NGO that is doing really well (like being able to sustain itself financially). In a way we are a social responsible company and we hope we can continue to be a successful one. We engage in a lot of activities that we don’t profit from. Like giving workshops and lectures to students, creating videos and flyers about sex knowledges, working with NGOs on various projects. These are our ways of contributing to our society. So when people buy from us, they are actually helping us to educate our society with more positive sex knowledge. We believe that’s what a good business should be. Channeling the wealth of the fortunate ones to help build a better world. We are proud that our customers are happy with us, our employees are happy with us, and we believe we are doing something good for humanity.
What are a few of the key variables in order of importance to ensure the best chance of success in adult retail?
Find a market segment that you can be No. 1. Refine the market segment until you can be the best in that segment.
What makes a great store?
The shopping experience. Good shops sell good products. Great shops sell great services. Extraordinary shops sells exceptional experiences, so when they remember your shop, they remember not the products they bought but the great experiences that they had in your shop.
What variables define a great store location?
For us, it’s conveniently located in downtown shopping district but discreet enough so a customer’s colleagues or friends have small chance to see him/her walk in.
What size are your stores?
Each of our stores are around 500sq feet. And it’s already huge compared to other sex stores in Hong Kong. The size is just right to engage in intimate conversation with customers. We make it cozy and display products in a way that encourages customers to explore. We are not a supermarket so the products are not lined up neatly waiting for customers to pick up and pay at cashier. We collect vintage furniture and decorations so it’s almost like an elegant adventure for customers to visit our stores.
How often would your business change a store layout or re-merchandise?
As much as we can.
Does your business target a specific customer demographic? How would you define your customer base?
Although we refer ourselves as female-friendly sex shop, anyone looking for quality intimate objects are our potential customers. Our customers are those who look for something more for their intimate life; those who are willing to pay a bit more for better products.
What proportion of your sales is repeat business vs new business?
Half and half. Repeat customers are important to us but we also rely on tourists, which might be one-time customers. Sex toys are still new to many locals, so every day there are newbies buying their first sex toy from us.
How do your sales staff present themselves to a customer?
We conduct regular internal trainings and workshops to our intimate stylists on product knowledges, sex knowledge as well as how they can serve their customers better. Listening is a major part of our job. If the customers are willing to share, we always love to listen to their stories first so we can find the best products for them.
What do staff most love about their jobs at your business?
Helping others to explore and improve their intimate lives. Also we encourage our staff to explore their possibilities on our business platform. Some staff love hosting art events; some staff love writing online articles; some staff love giving workshops. It’s our intention to help staff explore and excel expertise of their own other than being a good staff in a sex shop.
If we look at your adult retail business 5 years ago versus now, what changes did you see and how have you responded to them?
5 years ago I only needed my own two hands for brands that are good. New products came twice a year. Marketing meant a Google ad and a bit of Facebook; Customer service meant email and phone.
Now I need my hands and feet and my partner’s too, to count brands with great toys. New products every week. Marketing means Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google Ad, Newsletter, Interviews on Online and traditional media. Customer service means email, phone, Whatsapp, WeChat, FB Message, IG DM, maybe SnapChat or Line next year. We cope by working twice as hard, and stay true to our core values.
What categories of product do you carry?
Intimate Lifestyle is about fun, and also being healthy. Sex toy and BDSM are obviously a big part of our business. But we also have classy lingerie, perfume and the menstrual cup. They make up a significant part of our business too.
What are some of your best selling brands?
LELO, We-Vibe, Fun Factory, Tenga, Crave and Womanizer are our best selling brands.
What makes a great brand?
The vision it stands for, that which can stand the test of time.
How important is new product in a store?
Customers want new stuff. Sometimes new products are good for sales and sometimes it’s good to have a conversation with repeat customers.
What trends has your business observed in adult pleasure products?
It’s getting harder and harder to differentiate true European/American brands verses my-whole-team-is-Chinese-but-I-have-a-UK-registered-address-so-I-am-an-UK-brand brands.
How does your business keep informed about adult pleasure products?
Besides reading every issue of Synergy magazine, we also listen to customers recommendations. Sometimes they know things that we don’t!
What have been some of the best selling items of all time for your business?
Kegel balls for women and Tenga Flip Hole series for men.
What variables can ‘make’ or ‘break’ a product in a store?
If our intimate stylists tried it and believe in the product, it will naturally sell!
What are you doing/can you do to get more customers?
We have been trying to put more efforts into social media this year.
What promotional activity do you engage in? Online/offline
Other than the standard online ads, social media stuff, we make YouTube videos on sex knowledge in general besides product videos. We share our story and what we know about sex in colleagues, NGOs. We participate in various art events, film screening. We host workshops in our shops. We go on interviews on various online and offline newspaper, magazine, TV, radio stations. We even participated in a reality TV show, although it was not really related to our business. But as owners we grasp every chance we have to put our face out there and let people know about us. We always look for crossover with other brands or stores to reach new customers.
How do you view the trend toward online shopping and the changing role of the physical shops?
I think it is the nature of human to enjoy shopping in a physical shop. Especially you need to feel the vibration to understand if that’s what you want. Having a face-to-face shopping experience with a nice salesperson cannot be easily replaced. On the other hand, the convenience of online shopping is unparalleled and the demand will only keep growly. I believe successful physical shops will have to focus more on giving a great shopping experience instead of being a convenient way to buy a product.
What advice could you give someone intending to start in adult retail today?
Don’t try to copy someone. Be original. Find a gap in the market and fill it with your business. Make sure you have strong advantages in being the best in that gap.
關於 So Miki
相信性是日常，以文字紀錄生活。 毒舌的好脾氣小姐，畢業於浸會大學人文及創作系，盼以文字推廣性健康和身體自信。 Sally Coco / Sally's Toy Intimate Stylist，糖不甩性健康平台網絡總監。 Instagram: sallycoco.miki