Valentine’s Day may never be the same again.
The official Fifty Shades of Grey collection of ‘pleasure products’ made its North American debut on the weekend at New York’s Curve Expo lingerie trade show, drawing a steady stream of retail buyers eager to inspect the goodies. And make no mistake, it’s bound to do for the adult novelties industry what the steamy BDSM-themed trilogy did for the publishing industry over the past two years.
If you’ve already got a personal collection of erotic toys, fetish gear or bondage accessories, you won’t find much new or shocking in the Fifty Shades assortment of vibrators, restraints and spanking toys.
But the first official — meaning it’s licensed and endorsed by author E.L. James — product line from the worldwide publishing phenomenon isn’t aimed at experienced sexual adventurers. It’s meant for everyone else, particularly the 150 million women (and their partners) around the world who have read the books and are nervously beginning their own erotic journey.
“It’s the most famous erotic brand in the world today. It’s become a byword for erotic products,” national sales director Michelle Marcus told Lingerie Talk.
The 18-piece Fifty Shades line will reach North American consumers in April, and follows a pre-Christmas release in the UK and Western Europe that saw it sell 500,000 pieces in its first eight weeks — making it the fastest-selling product launch ever in the sex-toy industry.
Author Erica James is credited as “co-creator” of the line, which is “a collection of her favorite items from the book,” Marcus said.
She’s also credited with keeping prices low. “It was important to (James) that it was affordable. She wanted an affordable entry into the pleasure products market,” Marcus said.
Individual items range from $13 for the ‘Tease‘ feather tickler to $35 for the ‘Inner Goddess‘ ben-wa balls, while kits run up to $70.
Each item is tastefully packaged in a glossy box that bears imagery and quotes from one of the Fifty Shades books, explaining how the item was used and enjoyed by protagonists Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.
The Fifty Shades collection is licensed to Love Honey, an established UK retailer of erotic toys, and a new company called Omoro which was set up to handle U.S. rights. A Fifty Shades lingerie collection is also in the works but, despite reports to the contrary, the brand’s lingerie license has not yet been awarded (likewise, rumors that Victoria’s Secret was licensing the Fifty Shades brand were also untrue).
Still, Marcus said it is important for the Fifty Shades toy collection “to be a part of the lingerie market,” which explains why the brand debuted at a lingerie trade show.
“A lot of lingerie retailers are cautious about offending customers, so it will depend on how brave they — or their boards — are,” she said. The company is “being picky” in selecting retailers to represent the brand, she added.
“People who would never go into a sex shop can now make the connection with these products,” she said. “It’s like Fifty Shades of Grey has done the homework for them. The brand takes away the intimidating and scary associations (of these products) and delivers them in a comfortable way.”
That level of consumer comfort, Marcus added, will be the deciding factor in the brand’s entry into the sex toys market.
“This is not underground anymore, it’s mainstream,” she said. “E.L. James (above) made it possible for women to feel comfortable exploring the underground, aboveground.”
“It might be naughty, but it’s naughty good.”
The author herself is expected to make some U.S. promotional appearances this summer and will likely autograph some products for store promotions. A Fifty Shades line of massage oils, lubes and healing creams is also due this summer, and will be produced by Sliquid.