Sex Sells. And nobody knows that better than Ken Sahn, President of Holiday Products, a leading distributor of Adult Pleasure Products in more than 30 categories from 130+ manufacturers.
Holiday Products, headquartered in Chatsworth, California, was started in 1985 by Home Party Industry pioneer, Moe Levy. For the first 25 years, the Home Party segment was Holiday Products focus. Sahn joined as President in 2009 and brought in more product, experienced people and developed processes that moved the company into a full-line distributor of adult products with a strong market presence into brick & mortar retailers and internet retailers throughout the United States, Mexico, Latin America and the world.
Sahn has been in the adult products industry for 30 years, after getting his start in the ‘head shop’ world back in the sixties. He put himself through college making and selling roach clips, beaded necklaces and a power hitting smoking device named the ‘No-Smoker Toker.’ Later, he was the VP at one of the country’s largest wholesalers of cannabis smoking products and ran a counter-culture gift store — that is, until the late eighties, when glass blowers and smoking accessory distributors were busted by the Feds for selling “paraphernalia’.
“What then happened was many companies switching from smoking stuff to adult products. The distribution model was already in place and the question became what “widgets” are we going to sell now?” Sahn recalls. “I was lucky — I had a buyer who was into adult stuff, she taught me about the category, and we started bringing it in.”
The late-eighties and early-nineties saw a 180-degree spin from the free-loving seventies. The AIDS crisis created a more cautious relationship with sexual pleasure. People still wanted to get off, and women, especially became more attuned with self-stimulation and using means other than good old-fashioned penetration to reach orgasm. Toys became a substitute for the penis. Men, of course, still needed a safe home-alone method of release, and the advent of penis pumps and masturbators became common place. Sahn recalls his bewilderment with the first “vacuum erection devices” he saw, but now Holiday Products carries dozens of them.
Not only did the times present a new way of looking at (and using) adult pleasure products, but it also created a new customer demographic increasingly concerned with safety, health, and sexual wellness. This helped the industry and products become more acceptable. Interestingly, Sahn identifies women as making up 75 percent of the adult pleasure products customer base.
Sahn says the adult pleasure products industry is “unrecognizable” from its early days to now. Adult pleasure products are promoted by doctors, bloggers and sexual health experts. To see just how far reaching these changes are, Sahn says you only have to look at mainstream retailers like Rite-Aid and Wal-Mart, who now stock sexual wellness products alongside tampons and toothpaste. Even Amazon is a player in the adult market, and with a few clicks, shoppers can buy everything from flavored lubricants to realistic sex toys for both men and women that will be sent inconspicuously right to thier home.
“There are three totally different shoppers — the online shopper, the brick-and-mortar shopper and the person who will do both,” Sahn says. “Online stores have exposed adult products to so many more people and have taken the stigma away, but there are still a lot of people who want to see and feel the products before buying.”
Like adult, once marked XXX, smoke shops, not long ago presumed only for hippies and stoners, have seen incredibly positive change in public perception. Many have smartly married the two once taboo markets.
“From full-blown stores within a store to a simple counter display, it seems to be a natural addition,” Sahn says. “If you were to ask if smoke shops should sell shoes, my response would be, ‘What’s the connection?’ It’s more simpatico for smoke shops to add adult.”
“A smoke store trying out adult should not be doing it to bring in adult customers — it should be to service smokers,” he adds. “A connoisseur of smoke products is far more likely to be open to an adult toy than the reverse.”
As a successful business, you never want to completely change your DNA. If smoke and vape is keeping you busy, you’re not simply going to switch from bongs to butt plugs.
“If you just want to stretch out a little bit, you’re going to be more successful and less intimidating to your regular customers by adding some lotions, lubes, discrete personal vibrators and things that are more romantic,” Sahn says.
Holiday Products carries more than 8,000 items, and while bondage, S&M and other kinky toys are available, Sahn says the stronger move is catering to the softer side of adult. “We don’t carry any DVD movies or porn or anything like that,” he says. “It’s all about sexual wellness now.”
Working closely with their brand partners, Holiday Products continually seeks out the “Best of the Best” to benefit their retailer customers — and their end-user customers — with an expertly curated product selection.
Along with vibrators, lubes, stimulating gels, body oils, and sexy intimates, Sahn says “The classic “Magic Wand Massager” remains Holiday Products’ most popular items. “It’s amazing, the sheer volume that we sell,” Sahn says.
“And while the adult market has gotten extremely sophisticated,” he adds. “we still sell a lot of rubber dicks!”
“It’s a big, big world, and there are so many customers,” Sahn says. “We watch our business just grow and grow and grow. I watch good retailers, open more stores and expand and do great business.”