If you're fortunate enough to live in a city with a Babeland location, you may have had the pleasure (literally) of attending a workshop or chatting up one of their helpful sales associates while buying your next best vibe. For those who don't, you may have read one of their insanely good books. And for those who are not familiar, it's high time you learn, lady! This year, Babeland celebrates their 20th year as a sex-positive retail champion and we couldn't be more excited (or grateful for that matter ) to raise a glass to their work in sex. Babeland founder, Claire Cavanaugh was kind enough to share some of her experiences over the last 20 years with us:
How have your customers changed over 20 years? Any particular shift in tastes or preferences?
Well, there was that whole Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon that made everyone want Ben Wa Balls and riding crops! Generally speaking, vibrators have become much more acceptable and visible in mainstream culture. Every time a well-known celebrity talks about owning a vibrator or a sex toy is featured in a positive way, like in Sex and the City, sales jump and people who weren't sure about it get curious and are influenced to try one. Our bestselling toy for years now has been the We-Vibe, a couple's vibe that women can wear during intercourse. Previously, the Rabbit was the bestseller. It's still in the top five, but couple's toys are very popular.
As far as changes in tastes or preferences, I can't say that this is an industry where consumers are driving sex toy design. It's much more that technology innovation is influencing design, there are at least three new sex toys that are in the works that use apps, for example.
Over the years, what has surprised you most about running a company like Babeland?
I feel the love! Rachel and I knew in our hearts and minds that Babeland was just what the world needed, but honestly to look back now and see all the amazing things that have come from our talented staff and wonderful customers, it's incredible. When I meet people and tell them that I run a sex toy shop called Babeland, most of the time they know us and have heard something positive. I had no idea the little shop that we opened in Seattle by dumpster-diving for fixtures would become the well-known touchstone that it is today.
Your books and the Babeland classes are a fabulous source for tips and advice. What is the best advice you would give a customer if you could only say one thing?
Thank you! Can I use the Babeland Bill of Rights as one piece of advice? It's published in Moregasm: Babeland's Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex and includes ten tenets that we free everyone to pursue pleasure. Maybe if I have to choose just one it would be #4 - Own Your Own Orgasm. Tell your partner what feels good to you, where to touch your body. Discover this through self-loving and make it a lifetime pursuit. (Also, use lube. Lube is awesome.)
Preach! The industry has certainly changed in the last 20 years. Where do you think the erotic product industry is headed? Will the Magic Wand ever be available at Duane Reade? How will Babeland innovate to stay ahead of the curve?
It's great that large retailers are seeing the value of offering their customers convenience, but I think two things will keep stores like Babeland relevant to customers. First, there's still a blush factor to buying sex toys and not everyone wants to engage with their local Duane Reade clerks when they're picking up a vibrator. You throw it on the counter with aspirin, shampoo, a birthday card for your mom, and your allergy medicine and it might feel weird. Your neighbors are there and they're not buying sex toys, etc. It's not the most comfortable atmosphere for intimate shopping. From our experience, customers have a lot of questions about how things work and what they do. I can't imagine a drugstore employee being as informed and helpful as a Babeland Sex Educator, so there's that aspect, too.
A big thanks to Claire and Rachel for their time and to all the amazing Babeland staff for their work to educate and please the masses! It MUST be mentioned as well, Babeland does incredible philanthropic work for some very worthy organizations through their Come For a Cause program. They're currently raising money and awareness for A is For, an advocacy organization for reproductive rights. We wish Babeland a very happy 20 years and look forward to the next 20!