Six months ago, companies across the country had to shut down, some of which are still closed today.
But the coronavirus pandemic has allowed some businesses to thrive – just ask Eloise Monaghan.
The Sydney-based founder of Honey Birdette, a high-risk lingerie chain that also sells sex toys, has shown she was “scared” about the impact on the business – she sparked a whole new way of shopping for her customers, the has doubled sales.
“I was scared for my brand, but we thought, ‘Right, what can we do? “Said Ms. Monaghan to news.com.au.
“So we did virtual appointments, zoom rooms, insta rooms, virtual erotic readings … but private appointments were the COVID option that really turned out to be a blast.”
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Shops were closed during the VIP dates to allow private shopping experiences for singles and small groups.
Customers are given a glass of champagne on arrival and the privacy to explore all that the label has to offer. The limited number of guests ensures that COVID safe practices are followed.
“You go through the doors and they close them. You have a glass of champagne in hand and the whole salon to yourself, ”said Ms. Monaghan.
The idea proved so popular that Honey Birdette voluntarily closed the doors of a store to the public and only accepted private bookings through the brand’s website.
“We closed Sydney City all day last Saturday and doubled our sales. So we will be testing it with all of the Sydney flagships, ”said Ms. Monaghan.
A new appointment-only store will open in the Sydney business district over the next few months. This is just the beginning for the global brand to be launched in other cities and countries.
“If you’d told me six months ago that we’d closed stores to make appointments, I would have laughed in your face,” she said.
“But they kept increasing every week, and now 25 percent of our retail sales in all stores come from private appointments.”
The sex toy industry has seen a huge boom since the coronavirus lockdown began. According to online adult store The Hot Spot, sales in Australia rose 42 percent in March.
While the tactic was born in response to forced closings at the height of the pandemic, Ms. Monaghan said it has now become a key element in the company’s survival plan.
The company was born in 2006 and started out with a business in Brisbane. But its provocative nature quickly caught on and today there are 55 stores, including four in the UK and four in California.
However, the brand’s success has not been without controversy.
In February, Honey Birdette had to censor a promotional image with co-founder Eloise Monaghan and her wife Natalie, which were released at the same time as Sydney’s gay and lesbian carnival.
The image was deemed too explicit by Ad Standards, the organization that regulates the Australian advertising industry itself, as it featured female nipples.
An uncensored image appeared in the US and UK, but had to be blurred in Australia.
“I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen to Australia. It’s seriously scary, “she said at the time.
In 2017, an image was banned from being used as a digital billboard in the chain’s stores across the country after the regulator received complaints.
Collective Shout, an advocacy group against the objectification of women, has published articles criticizing the dissemination of the content to young buyers.
One complaint came from a “horrified mother” who said she was walking through a mall with her four-year-old son when she saw an inappropriate picture in the shop window.
“I have to go in and out of it to essentially get to the Kmart,” she said. “Your current campaign is for white lace teddies / negligees and nipples are clearly visible on the full-size posters.”
Changing how they shop with their customers could mean a more private era for Honey Birdette. Ms. Monaghan said part of the appeal was because “people want to discuss sex toys in private”.
“They have customers who don’t want to be on the toy wall or the fetish wall when their child’s teacher walks in,” she told news.com.au.
However, she insists that it is not the end of traditional business, stating that “COVID changed retail forever.”
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