Fascinations General Manager Pat Jagos says if there’s been one constant in the adult retail industry, it’s been evolution. When the company opened its first store in Tucson, Ariz., in 1987, the typical adult store was more like the seedy stereotype of the “adult bookstore” than it is today. Some lingerie items were packaged in cellophane bags, for example.

Over time, however, the perceptions began to change, particularly as stores like Victoria’s Secret and Frederick’s of Hollywood became more mainstream. Jagos says Fascinations recognized that there was an opportunity for the company to help lead the way in making a difference. “There was a void in intimacy-enhancing products, and it really led us to say we needed to make it much nicer and much more accessible,” he says.

With 16 brick-and-mortar stores located in Arizona and Colorado, Fascinations has grown into a leading regional retailer of adult products. Jagos says the company has moved away from primarily featuring adult videos and moved into products that couples can use to help enhance their intimacy. “Now, you walk in and it’s primarily about the soft and sensual side of intimacy-inspiring products,” he says.

A Different Look

Even though the adult product industry has evolved into one that doesn’t have the same stigma as it did in years past, shopping at an adult retailer can still be an intimidating experience for new customers. This is the area where Fascinations distinguishes itself, Jagos says.

“I think it’s our people and our culture,” he says. “We’re not out there selling products, we’re providing information.”

Jagos says Fascinations creates a comfortable, friendly atmosphere in its stores, and that begins with the people who provide customer service. The company works to ensure that all of its employees are well-educated about the products Fascinations sells, and Jagos compares the level of customer service its employees provide to the level of service at high-quality department stores like Macy’s.

“The people are what really make things different for our guests,” Jagos says.

Also contributing to the comfort level inside Fascinations stores is the layout. According to the company, Fascinations stores are arranged in a “soft to sensual” layout that places less-risqué items such as lingerie, shoes and T-shirts at the front of the store to help customers feel more welcome and comfortable. “When entering a Fascinations, it is not readily obvious that the company sells any product more risqué than what is offered at Victoria’s Secret,” the company says.

The more adult-oriented products, including toys and lotions, are located in the rear section of the stores, the company explains. In many cases, these products are separated from the front of the store by a tall decorative wall.

Community Efforts

Even with the company’s efforts to make customers comfortable and break the stereotypes of adult retailers, Jagos says Fascinations still faces an uphill climb when it comes to public perception. “It affects everything we do, from hiring to opening new locations to choosing a charitable organization to work with,” he says. “The only way we can overcome that is through education.”

When looking for a new location, Fascinations reaches out to the community through marketing to local governments. Jagos says the company provides a media kit that describes its core principles and how Fascinations differs from the stereotypical idea of an adult-oriented retailer. The media kit includes examples of the company’s marketing efforts as well as letters of recommendation from organizations Fascinations has worked with in the past.

Many of those organizations are charitable groups, and Jagos says Fascinations believes giving back to the community is one of the company’s most important functions. For example, the company donates extensively to cystic fibrosis charities because some of the company’s core leadership has family members who have been afflicted with the disease, Jagos says. The company also donates significantly to charities that provide care packages to American armed forces serving overseas.

Accessible and Mainstream

Jagos says Fascinations has experienced a lot of progress in its efforts to become a more mainstream brand, but he admits there is only so far the company can go on its own. “There’s always going to be that challenge,” he says.

For its part, Fascinations will continue to refine the layout of its stores and the presentation of its products to make customers more comfortable when shopping for romance-enhancing items. Jagos says the company plans to do more with its online store funlove.com, including adding mobile technology to allow customers to shop from their phones or other devices. He says purchases made over the Internet are a significant portion of Fascinations’ business, and the company wants to find a way to increase that and tie it into its physical locations.

There are signs that the perceptions around adult products continue to evolve, Jagos says. He points to certain manufacturers’ products being carried by mainstream retailers such as Brookstone. As long as these instances become more frequent, he says, Fascinations will continue to become more accessible and mainstream. “That’s just a sign of what’s to come,” he says.

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