Is the Time Right for an Industry Association for the Adult Toy Sector?

Our CEO Lee Bryan considers the current challenges and explains how the adult toy sector could benefit from an industry association. 

The adult toy industry has achieved significant growth over the past decade. A surge in consumer demand for sexual wellness products has been driven by shifting societal attitudes and technological advancements. As the market continues to expand, it faces new challenges that could be addressed more effectively through collective action. This raises an important question: is the time right for an industry association for the adult toy sector?

The Growth of the Adult Toy Industry

The global adult toy market is projected to reach $36.1 billion by 2027, up from $28.6 billion in 2020. This growth is fueled by factors such as greater acceptance of sexual wellness, increased marketing efforts, and a rise in discreet e-commerce sales. Products have also become more sophisticated, with innovations like app-controlled devices, novel body-safe materials, and ergonomic designs tailored to enhance user experience.

Challenges Facing the Industry

Despite its growth, the adult toy industry faces several challenges. We’ve seen similar obstacles in other industries, such as the vape industry, and the presence of an industry association has been tremendously beneficial. Here’s a rundown of where I think an industry association could prove most valuable in the adult toy industry:

  1. Regulatory Hurdles: The industry operates in a complex regulatory environment, with varying standards across different regions. An effective industry association could help navigate these regulations collectively, ensuring products meet stringent safety standards, and advocating for fair policies.
  2. Stigma and Public Perception: Despite growing acceptance, the industry still contends with stigma. A unified association could work to normalise adult toys, educate the public on sexual wellness, and foster an inclusive, body-positive image.
  3. Quality and Safety Standards: Inconsistent quality and safety standards across manufacturers can pose serious risks, leading to consumer mistrust. An industry association could help to establish and enforce standards, ensuring consumers receive safe, high-quality products.
  4. Intellectual Property Issues: The industry is rife with issues like patent infringement and counterfeit products. A collective body could offer businesses legal support and work towards protecting intellectual property rights.
  5. Sustainability Concerns: As the climate crisis worsens and consumers become more eco-conscious, there’s an increasing demand for sustainable products. An industry association could promote green practices, helping companies reduce their environmental impact.

Benefits of an Industry Association

Beyond the challenges, an industry association could provide numerous benefits and indeed build a more progressive and forward-thinking outlook for the wider sector. With the lessons learned from other industries, these are the key advantages of a collective approach:

  1. Advocacy and Representation: An association could represent the industry’s interests to governments and regulatory bodies, lobbying for more favourable legislation and policies.
  2. Standardisation: By leading on industry-wide standards, an association could ensure products are safe, reliable, and high-quality, thereby boosting consumer confidence.
  3. Education and Training: An association could offer bespoke training programs for manufacturers, retailers, and consumers, promoting best practices and innovation within the industry.
  4. Research and Development Support: Pooling resources for R&D can lead to greater advancements in technology and product design, powering future industry growth.
  5. Networking Opportunities: An association could facilitate networking events, allowing industry players to share knowledge, forge partnerships, and collaborate on bold new initiatives.

The Path Forward

While the advantages are clear, we know from our own experience across other regulated verticals that establishing an industry association for the adult toy sector would require careful collaboration among key stakeholders. Manufacturers, retailers, and other industry players would need to come together and recognise the collective benefits of such an organisation. Initial steps might include forming a steering committee, setting clear objectives, and securing funding to achieve its aims.

Furthermore, the association would need to be inclusive, representing the diverse voices within the industry, from small startups to established brands. This is critical, and something I have continually advocated for in other industries, in order to keep them diverse and independent. Transparency and accountability would also be crucial in building trust and ensuring the association serves the best interests of both its members and consumers.

Next Steps

The time appears ripe for the adult toy sector to get ahead of the regulatory curve and form an industry association. By addressing common challenges and advocating for the industry’s interests, such an organisation could play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the market. As societal attitudes continue to evolve and the demand for sexual wellness products surges, an industry association could help ensure the adult toy industry thrives in a responsible, sustainable, and consumer-focused manner.

Now, over to you. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. Connect with me on LinkedIn, or contact us with any questions or feedback you have regarding the adult toy sector.