Sex sells, so they say. And one New York retailer certainly hopes that the old maxim holds true, with a store concept using sporting allusions as a way to break taboos.
Yes, the latest to try and find that sweet spot and build on the popularity of books and movies such as Fifty Shades of Grey is Contact Sports, a new ‘sporting goods store’ which has opened its first retail location in SoHo, New York.
Little wonder that entrepreneurs are turning their attention to a market which is predicted to more than double in size (one statistic where size does matter) from $34.95 billion in 2021 to $75.73 billion by 2030.
In that same period, the global market will increase from 1.48 billion toys to a projected 3.51 billion, according to research from Spherical Insights & Consulting, published April.
North America is dominating the market with more than 48.5% market and players within the sexual wellness market have been expanding rapidly, notably U.K.-based Lovehoney joining forces with Germany’s WOW Tech, plus Swiss company Amorana, to become Lovehoney Group in 2021.
Backed by private equity group Telemos Capital, it claimed that the amalgamation created the world’s biggest sexual wellness retailer, with facilities in Berlin, Bath, Atlanta, Brisbane, Nuremberg, Ottawa, Lyon, Zürich, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
The online retailer followed in the footsteps of the long-running Ann Summers, which peaked at over 100 stores across the U.K. and Ireland before it went into the equivalent of Chapter 11 administration in 2020.
The company re-emerged in 2021 but lost executive chair and driving force Jacqueline Gold to cancer earlier this year.
Contact Sports Opens on Mercer Street
Located at 43 Mercer Street, Contact Sports hopes to change how shopping for sex gear should look and feel, with a locker-room-inspired boutique.
Prior to opening Contact Sports, founders Justin & Chelsea Kerzner had been running Naked Retail, one of the first spaces designed for start-up brands with a 7,000 sq. ft. space on Mulberry Street, SoHo.
They hosted experiences for sexual wellness brands such as Dame, Theragun, Bala, and Supergoop, and the merchandise mix at Contact Sports ranges from apparel and accessories to sexual wellness products and sex toys.
The focus, say the owners, is on a customer that has historically felt uncomfortable and embarrassed going into a traditional sex shop, where people felt “overwhelmed and uninspired”.
They contend that there are multiple new and exciting brands moving the category forward, but there has yet to be a retail space that does the same.
Stepping into Contact Sports, you’ll find a 15-ft. wall of red roses available for purchase singley or in bunches, inspired by some of the most memorable moments in sport – from Michael Phelps’ eight-straight Beijing Olympic podiums to the Pasadena Rose Bowl.
Working with Ringo Studio founder Madelynn Ringo –who has designed retail spaces for Glossier, Bala and Our Place – dark walnut panelling, brass rails and shelves, plus green cushions have been used to create a collegiate atmosphere, while mosaic floor tiles and baskets of towels evoke a locker room.
And there is a Jonathan de Pas, Donato d’Urbino and Paolo Lomazzi giant baseball glove chair, along with vintage Playboy and Sports Illustrated magazines
Contact Sports has stuck to just 70 products at launch, plus apparel and gear including sweatshirts, hoodies, a classic baseball cap, sports towel, water bottle, and tube socks.
“Sex should be fun, explorative, exciting and well, sexy, all while respecting boundaries. We’re changing the mindset around a traditionally guilt-ridden retail experience. We’ve created a space for the athlete in all of us,” says co-founder Chelsea Kerzner.
Given the prospective growth in the market, with sexual wellness it seems there is all to play for.