Harmony Ltd UK

By on September 14, 2017
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When and how did you first start your involvement in adult retail?
I joined the company 18 years ago, I had previous experience in retail and had been to college whereby I obtained a diploma in management. My brothers created Harmony and asked me to join them in the running of the shops, taking over the management of the sales team and purchasing.

What are your store trading hours/days and how many days or hours a week do you work in your business?
We open as early as 9am and close as late as midnight. I work a 5 day week Monday to Friday, generally starting at 10am and it’s not unusual for me to finish after 8pm, so a working week for me can vary from 45 to 50 hour week.
What do you love most about your adult retail business?
Enhancing people’s sex lives.
What is your business especially proud of?
Being able to open a shop on Oxford Street, one of the busiest shopping high street’s in Europe. It wasn’t easy and we had a few challenges along the way but we got there in the end.
What are a few of the key variables in order of importance to ensure the best chance of success in adult retail?
Never take your customers for granted and always give them new and exciting products; a bored customer will be a disloyal customer.

What makes a great store?
Create theatre in your store, give the customer something interesting and fun to see, they will want to tell their friends and always pay constant attention to how you merchandise your products, presentation is essential.
What variables define a great store location?
Footfall, if little or no one walks past your shop you are in trouble.

Describe the fit out and how/why this design?
The 2 shops vary. Charing Cross is a smaller shop (1300 sq ft) and more of boutiques feel to it with its wooden floors and antique tables, creating a more personalized shopping experience. Oxford Street is quite a considerably larger shop (4,500 sq ft) with a regular retail high street feel to it, trying to create an experience for the customer as every day as say Boots. It’s on 2 floors and the colour scheme changes from virgin white at the beginning to a dark purple, the deeper and further you go in to the store the darker and harder it gets.

How often would your business change a store layout or re-merchandise?
Store lay outs do not change often at all but re-merchandising is a continuous exercise, new brands, products or promotional activities can dictate when you make a change. We are running a Durex Intense campaign at the moment so a large section of the ground floor is devoted to this.

How would you define your customer base?
We do not target a specific customer demographic, as long as you’re 18 or over, couples, male or female all are welcome and you’ll find something for everyone. Our customer base is so varied, from the student to the businessman or the come to London for the day person to the dancer that works in London 5 nights a week.

What proportion of your sales is repeat business vs new business?
We have a high percentage of repeat customers, the exact figure is unknown but when we run promotions we have found many of our customers have already taken advantage of them. Of course being on London’s busiest high streets we are fortunate to have many new customers.

How do you train your staff?
Training is essential, all new employees undergo basic shop floor/product training. We also encourage brands to offer training instore which is done usually on a one to one basis, we cannot have the entire work force stop work and down tools to undertake training. The sales team always offer a welcome hello and smile to our customers and provide knowledgeable and friendly advice without the hard sell, I myself am a consumer and I want help not someone forcing a sale on me.

What do staff most love about their jobs at your business?
The general consensus is being able to pass on their knowledge and experience on to our customers.

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?
The massive change has been the decline in DVD sales and of course we saw this coming. It is crucial one looks at one’s business in 5 years’ time, be vigilant to internal and external changes. We have always presented ourselves as a friendly, approachable, non-exclusive adult retailer so the demise of the DVD has had a considerably less negative impact to us than say a typical adult store whom presented themselves as overtly masculine, film and mags and little else.

What categories of product do you carry?
The shops are divided into categories which best suits the customers journey, meaning you wouldn’t place a male masturbator toy at the very beginning, allow them to get comfortable before they are presented with that. Sexy lingerie and non-offensive non-penis like products, novelties and female lotions and potions are on the ground floor, fetish clothing, bondage and all other toys in the basement. We are a one stop shop so you’ll find pretty much anything in our shop that can help you succeed in the adult play world.

What are some of your best selling brands?
Durex have made a great impact to our shop sales, everyone knows they sell condoms and are pretty awesome at that but the new Intense range for the ladies and the Pleasure Rings for guys are amazing, they have been very supportive to Harmony and we enjoy selling the Durex brand because of their excellence.

What makes a great brand?
Well they obviously need to possess great products, put the effort into marketing it and offering support to the retailer to push the brand and sell the numbers. I do get surprised quite often for example the common known dildo. Pipedreams have created the brand COCK which are dildos in all colours, sizes, non-vibrating, vibrate etc, all been done before and yet this Brand sells enormously, why? Because the packaging is spot on, you can see what you are getting, the name of the brand (no disguising there) and the price. It just works! I first noticed the brand at a trade show in Germany and made a pre-order straight away, I didn’t go to the show looking for this product but came away with it.

What would be your mix of sales of premium higher priced branded items vs other items?
Premium higher priced branded item sales are growing incredibly fast, this is because there are more of them available in the market place and is obviously because there is a demand for them. We- Vibe Sync are priced at £164.99 and this product is very innovative, the price tag doesn’t scare anyone and our customers love it. The cheaper items still sell the best however you only need to sell a few higher priced items to equal the sales value, but your profit margin suffers.

How important is new product?
If you don’t have new product you become stale and do not progress and a store which stands still will suffer. Customers demand something new and exciting!

What trends has your business observed in adult pleasure products?
The obvious trend is the huge appeal in the bondage and fetish adult play and I would hazard a guess the 50 shades phenomenon has had much to do about that.

How does your business keep informed about adult pleasure products?
We enjoy a well informed and healthy relationship with our suppliers and they communicate regular with us.

What have been some of the best selling items of all time for your business?
Durex Intense Gel, by far our current bestseller.

What variables can ‘make’ or ‘break’ a product in a store?
The 4 P’s , Product, Price, Promotion and Place but the 5th essential one is Packaging, which I mentioned earlier with Brand COCK.

What measures can you undertake to increase sales?
Always looking to improve the customers experience inside the store with product placement and how you present it with shelf talkers, product information Perspex signs, images or promo videos. Allowing the customers to easily identify what they are looking at and make getting there easy. Knowledge is key, so having your sales team fully aware of the products you are looking to bring in and involve them.

What promotional activity do you engage in?
Promotions are a big contributor to drive sales, we offer free product for purchases over a certain price, this helps to nudge up the average spend or giveaway a free lubricant with every toy bought, lubricants are an essential add on and once customers have enjoyed their benefits they come back for more, as it’s a consumable it doesn’t last forever.

How do you create awareness for your stores?
We feature in magazines, some of the products we sell are reviewed and the results published in newspapers or online avenues. Many brands we stock in our shop have a high activity in advertising and reference Harmony in London as the place to go and we also feature well in search engines for the place to purchase adult toys etc.

How do you view the trend toward online shopping and the changing role of the physical shop?
Yes there is a considerable shift in consumer habits towards buying online, it’s a growing market place, however people still love to shop with their feet, that’s never going to change its just that the consumer is much more savvy and will do their research online and will approach you with mobile in hand and show you exactly which product they want and the price they are prepared to pay.

What advice could you give someone intending to start in adult retail today?
If you wish to start a business in Adult Retail be prepared to spend vast sums of money and have a passion for it, don’t do it if you think it’s a license to print money.

If you wish to work for a company in adult retail than go for it, my sales team enjoy working in an adult retail environment and no matter how much you think you know, there is always that one customer that asks you something you don’t know, forever learning!

A Synergy Magazine interview with Jason

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