How Major Retailers Are Bringing Sex Toys Into the Mainstream

pale pink vibrator next to jewelry tray

How Major Retailers Are Bringing Sex Toys Into the Mainstream

Earlier this year, sex toys entered the chat in John Lewis, one of the UK’s largest and oldest department stores. In North America, it’s now the norm to see high-quality vibrators on the shelves of Walmart, Target, Sephora, and other big-box stores. Sexual wellness products have officially come out of the closet. They’re living their best lives alongside other wellness essentials, with these megastores purchasing wholesale sex toys. It’s what industry professionals have been fighting for all these years. 

This is a huge win for everyone working in the adult toy industry, including sexual wellness PR professionals like Little Leaf. Sex toys are notoriously difficult to get funding for. We’re constantly having to find loopholes to get eyeballs on them, whether it’s in advertising or stores. The more major retailers put vibrators, dildos, and butt plugs in their stores, the easier it becomes not just for customers to access these products but for investors to take the plunge in what was once considered a risky field to invest in. 

Sex educators like Venus O’Hara saw a gap between the scientific sexologist approach and the “naughty” reputation of sex toys. In 2009, she approached it from more of a “lifestyle” sensibility, which changed the game. Over a decade later, many reviewers, brands, and stores follow suit, which is part of why sex is now included in the wellness space. 

How retailer decisions impact investor and VCs

Though it was historically rarely backed, sex tech and its future is worth billions, and the industry is growing at a rapid rate as attitudes change. More and more venture capital firms are considering investing in the sex industry. Companies like Amboy Street Ventures have invested in several companies in the space, including Dipsea and Contraline.

More women are leading the industry than ever before in what was once a male-dominated field. But as sex tech titans like Cindy Gallop have pointed out, the number of female founders getting the funding (and research) they need is still dismal and requires significantly more support. That starts with visibility, engagement, and support from others in the community and beyond. This is why we always try to spotlight inspiring women who are doing important things in the adult industry with our client roster, our content, and our social channels.

What this shift means for sex ed

As the subject becomes less taboo and more open in both a B2B context and from consumers, the mission becomes more virtuous. Not only are brands slinging sex toys, but they’re also providing much-needed education and resources to the public. With so much misinformation about pleasure, STIs, and issues like the orgasm gap, sexual education has become a growing trend amongst these businesses, and it’s desperately needed. In the face of waning access to sex-ed in the USA for youth, educating oneself online has become necessary. Many companies are starting to provide this important information on their blogs, as well as providing video tutorials.

Better education means safer sex. We’re not just talking condoms – BDSM is wildly popular, but etiquette and safety practices regarding it aren’t as widely known as they should be. Additionally, buying from vetted brands means investing in body-safe materials that will last years, and having the right education on lube can prevent sex toys and condoms from being damaged during playtime. Little Leaf is cheering on all those efforts in bringing education to the masses and aiming to provide the same support with our own content. 

Sexual wellness is wellness. It’s healthcare. It’s putting people in charge of their own bodies and minds and improving relationships with the self and with others. 

The stigma of “sin”

The biggest perk of mainstream, big-box stores buying wholesale sex toys and stocking these products is the ripple effect we’ll see everywhere, from consumers to CVCs. More sex toys on shelves mean more families are having sex-positive discussions and more people empowering themselves to experience pleasure. It’s the quickest way to normalize these subjects and directly reduce stigma. 

With pleasure products being sold alongside candy bars and sunscreen in your local supermarket, sex toys will start to be registered as just another mundane aspect of everyday life. The accessibility will increase tenfold – no longer will people have to step into sex shops wearing disguises. Instead, they’ll have access to explore on their own terms in stores where they feel comfortable doing so. 

Employee education 

When shopping for sex toys online, AI chatbots and quizzes allow people to have questions answered about what toys may be best for them. But an in-store experience can be a little more intimidating. Especially when you’re not sure if the staff has been trained specifically to answer questions on this intimate topic. 

This is why big box stores should be accountable for providing education related to these toys. They can do this by offering judgment-free guidance (and what makes toys purchase-worthy) for confused shoppers who may be beginners in the area. Whether it’s young people looking for information on masturbation or older people looking to purchase their first sex toy ever, everyone deserves knowledge.

Nobody wants to be laughed at or feel awkward when they’re shopping for sexual self-care essentials. Stores can remedy this by partnering with sex experts such as Alice Lovegood and Dr. Jess, who can teach courses and provide informative tips for customers buying superstore or supermarket sex toys. Many product categories at mainstream stores require new staff training, and these items are no different. 

Inclusivity matters

Everyone should be invited to the party! Brands like FUN FACTORY do a great job of ensuring that all sexualities and genders are addressed in their products. Many retailers and brands tend to focus on women only when producing products, but including men as well as members of the LGBTQIA2+ community can help address stigma and ensure that everyone gets to experience pleasure without shame. 

How we can break barriers further

Getting our clients into major stores is our secret weapon to battling taboos, and it marks a significant step towards mainstream acceptance. By stocking more big-name retailers with pleasure products, change can start to occur on a larger scale. As a direct result of this visibility and education, more people will be willing to have uncomfortable conversations and ask questions within a safe space.  

Millennials and Gen Z are much more open sexually than the generations that came before them, proving that if we keep putting in this time and effort, societal values can shift over time. This means future collaborations with other brands, investors, sex toy PR and advertising agencies, and even lawmakers to create more empowering legislation that gives people more autonomy over their bodies.

As successful retailers keep promoting megastore, drugstore, and supermarket sex toys, the conversation can continue to evolve, and sexual wellness can be seen as not just a desire but a necessity.   



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