Sex Toy Sales Swell As Valentine’s Day Approaches

Adult stores see a boom around the holiday, and the products that dominate might surprise you

(Photo Illustration: Diana Quach/Vocativ)
Feb 13, 2016 at 11:10 AM ET

Roses might set the mood, but after that, they’re pretty useless. So it’s no surprise that florists aren’t the only ones who claim February as their busiest month—many sex toy retailers see their biggest sales in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. But what, exactly, are these daring gifters buying? Well, “Blow Job in a Box” for starters. How’s that for romance?

Babeland, a sex toy seller with an online store and several brick-and-mortar shops, says its best business happens in the three months before Valentine’s Day. But a few products in particular begin to fly off the shelves at the beginning of February.

Comparing sales during the first two weeks of the month to the same time period in July, which is Babeland’s highest sales period outside of peak season, several products see a 500 percent increase in purchases this time of year. That includes the aforementioned “Blow Job in a Box,” which comes with a flavored condom and “finger vibe,” and “Bondage in a Box,” an all-black set of a tickler, satin mask and restraints. There’s the Je Joue Mio Cock Ring and a couple Babeland-branded products: a vibrating cock ring, a massage candle and an “arousal balm.”

With slightly smaller but still impressive growth of 200 percent or more, there is lube, including Sliquid and Uberlube, the “Orgasm in a Box,” a kit for women featuring a vibrator, lube and batteries, and the We-Vibe 4 Plus, a remote-controlled “couple’s vibrator.” Speaking of the latter, We-Vibe’s smartphone app—which can be used to control the vibe from across the room or across the country, in the case of long-distance couples—sees more than double its normal usage on Valentine’s Day. Those V-Day app sessions also last on average 30 percent longer that usual.

Adam & Eve, an adult store that sells everything from porn DVDs to blow-up dolls, has seen an increase in Valentine’s Day purchases of high-end anal toys, including vibrators and butt plugs. As the company’s director of public relations, Katy Zvolerin, put it, “There’s definitely a curiosity about anal play that Valentine’s Day seems to bring about!” Now put that on a Hallmark card. The company even sells a “Naughty Candy Heart Butt Plug” (it’s not actually edible). They also see “a significant sales spike” for novelty items and lingerie during February, and an overall increase in the size of people’s V-Day orders. “Now that it’s become so acceptable, people are willing to spend more money on a toy they’ve heard or read about,” she said.

It’s nice to think that part of the Valentine’s Day sex toy boom might be driven by single people fighting the cultural imperative that they be miserable on the holiday, but Babeland surveys show that customers are actually less likely to treat themselves during the months leading up to February 14. The company conducted surveys at checkout from 2011 to 2012 and found that during the pre-V-Day season, men and women are respectively 23 percent and almost 6 percent less likely than during the off-season to be shopping for themselves. That’s not the case when it comes to gift-giving during the Cupid build-up: men were 25 percent more likely to report that they were buying a gift and women were 50 percent more likely.

Good Vibrations, however, sees more gift-giving around now. “We see an uptick on web sales, especially and rush orders,” Jackie Rednour-Bruckman, the company’s executive vice president, said in an email. “Since this is more of a time than any other throughout the year that people are shopping for someone else with us, we see higher order value and lots of gift card sales too. That $200 vibrator that you heard about that promises to ‘deliver’ starts to sell a lot faster this time of year!” She added, “Orgasms are priceless.”

Regardless of who V-Day customers are buying toys for, Babeland founder Claire Cavanah says the holiday basically functions as an occasion to break routine. “At Valentine’s Day people are shopping for things to create a sexy experience with their partner or to indulge themselves,” said Babeland’s founder, Claire Cavanah. “We tend to wait for special occasions to go all out.”