Buying someone a sex toy for Christmas might once have been considered taboo, but leading adult retailers say that’s no longer the case. In 2014, Lovehoney reported that Christmas is now their strongest time of year for sales, beating even Valentine’s Day. In 2017, Ann Summers saw a 17.2% increase in sales during the Christmas period, compared to the previous year, with online sales jumping by 52%.
“I have seen a steady increase in Christmas sales,” says Stacy Rybchin, founder and CEO of My Secret Luxury. “In the past, sex toys may not have been a traditional Christmas gift, but as each year passes sex toys are becoming more mainstream.”
Buying someone a sex toy for Christmas might once have been considered taboo, but leading adult ... [+] retailers say that’s no longer the case. (Photo by Lucas Schifres/Getty Images)
Last year, the average U.S. household spent $1,536 during the Christmas period, with around a third going on gifts. In the UK, consumers spend more than half their Christmas budget (53 per cent) on gifts. With even mainstream news outlets running features on the best adult products ask Santa for it’s clear sex toys are now considered an acceptable Christmas gift. So what can people expect to find in their stockings this year?
“A few years ago, people were buying cheaper toys—possibly as gag gifts to give as a joke,” says Rybchin. “Now, I am seeing a lot of interest in our premium products. Christmas is also the time when I see customers step up to some of the more expensive items that they might not buy during the year. For example, the Lelo Yva vibrator ($2,900) is not a high volume product, but nearly all of my sales for this product have come in November and December.”
Americans spend an average of $123 on their partners, and for those opting for an adult product, it makes sense to splash out on something special. It’s also a good time to make an “investment purchase,” buying something that will last a long time rather than a quick fix. As a result, Rybchin says Christmas shoppers do a lot more research than they used to. “People are spending more time on the site, reading reviews, comparing products, and calling my call center to get advice from our medically trained experts,” she says.
Wand vibrators continue to be popular with almost all the retailers I spoke to naming at least one wand-style product among their predicted Christmas bestsellers. “They may typically be more expensive, but their popularity is very much linked to how much people are now willing to invest in their sex lives,” explains Laura Whittaker, senior manager at Ann Summers. “A wand is a very versatile toy and can be great for couples as it doubles up as a massager.”
Retailers have also noticed a change in attitude from the brands themselves. There is more focus on presentation and packaging, something that may not matter throughout the year but at Christmas becomes significant. “I am seeing consumers being drawn to products that include elegant packaging,” says Angela Lieben, head of marketing at Liberator. “And a lot of the brands are investing their money into their packaged options more so than they did last holiday season. I think this is because gifting sex toys has become more commonplace.”
Aesthetics are as important as function when gifting sex toys, says Lisa Finn, brand manager and sex educator at Babeland. The Crave Vesper necklace (from $75) is one of her bestseller predictions for this year, a slim vibrator which comes silver or gold-plated and worn on a stainless steel chain. “It doubles as a gorgeous piece of statement jewelry and a powerful pinpoint vibe, making for a beautiful unboxing,” Finn says. “Our customers really like to see the toys that are the most aesthetically pleasing this time of year, since a huge part of the allure of gift-giving is the reaction you get when someone opens a shiny new gift. This is why steel and gold products tend to be great for gifting.”
Discretion also matters. Unwrapping a giant dildo in front of your grandmother is not something most of us would feel comfortable doing. Plus, many people will be hosting or staying with extended family which often means limited privacy to try out our new toys. The amount of noise a product makes is also a key consideration for a lot of Christmas shoppers, says Whittaker.
“Our Whisper range has the quietest toys that we’ve ever offered,” she says. “These products were developed after 83% of our customers told us that they rate quietness over looks. Nobody needs an awkward breakfast meeting after subjecting the in-laws to a loud buzzing from your room all night!”
Toys that travel well and aren’t embarrassing to have on show are also likely to perform well. “We are seeing sales trends leaning toward devices such as the LELO SONA 2 and the Womanizer products,” says Lieben. “Our shoppers really love these waterproof rechargeable toys, not only because they resemble an art object, but they focus on quick climaxes for the busy holiday season. The fact that they don't resemble a typical vibrator makes it a much more appropriate gift option and less of a gag gift.”
To the uninitiated, Liberator’s own brand sex furniture looks relatively innocuous, but she says the more portable Kiss Wedge ($120) is particularly popular as a gift. “The lip-shape and color selection allows people to leave it out in the open and not have to stow it away,” she says.
The We-Vibe Sync couples' toy ($208) is predicted to be a big seller over the festive period this ... [+] year
Despite the limitations, Christmas is a notoriously frisky time of year. Numerous surveys and reports show that people have more sex around the festive period, and more babies are born in September (nine months later) than any other time of year. For retailers this manifests in an increased interest in couples’ toys such as the We-Vibe Sync ($208), which both My Secret Luxury and Babeland named as one of their predicted bestsellers for Christmas 2019.
“Most of the folks shopping with us are buying sexy gifts for their partners, and finding something to share and use together is the route most folks go down,” says Finn. “We also see a spike in the popularity of couples’ toys in the category of strap-on sets and BDSM toys.”
Stores say they also see a bump in sales of lingerie, games and accessories, as couples seek to “spice up” their sex lives while spending more time together over the holidays. “We always see a peak in searches for crotchless items in December,” says Whittaker. “There’s also a lot of evidence to suggest many couples ‘up the ante’ in the bedroom at Christmas. One element of this is a big increase in purchases of handcuffs—a perfect way for couples to inject a little kinkiness and try some light bondage with their mince pies.”
For those feeling inspired to switch out their traditional Christmas stockings for a pair that come with suspenders, 2019 might just be the year to do it.
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I write about sex and social development. I have a particular interest in the changing cultural attitudes around sex and relationships and how those are reflected in and...
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