2019 ETO Show Report – A Whole New Ballgame…
Posted: March 15, 2019
After a gap of two years, ETO Show returned on March 10th & 11th at a new venue and with a fresh format. Paul Smith couldn’t pass up the chance to tackle the event and finding out if it achieved its goals…
It’s testament to the industry’s faith in ETO Magazine that even after an extended break there was so much goodwill and enthusiasm shown for the return of the ETO Show, sponsored by Satisfyer. Although smaller thanks to a new limit on stand sizes, there were actually more exhibitors showing than in either 2015 or 2016 – the last two years the event ran. And although the retail sector has contracted a little in the intervening years there were still 623 trade professionals who braved the Ricoh Stadium’s parking system and cold winds to attend.
Sadly the organiser – Jonny Kirk, back for the 13th time – had been denied external signage, making the Show feel a bit ‘underground’. Literally, as Hall 3 is below the building. However, the Ricoh Arena has just as much kudos and similar ease of access as the NEC, being close to the motorway and train networks. The lower ceiling in Hall 3 and a comparative lack of pomp made for a more intimate setting – the presentation of the event was no less professional than in past years and it fulfilled its remit of bringing together manufacturers, distributors and retailers of all sorts to do business.
Sent to Coventry
I’ve nothing bad to say about The Midlands, the host city, or the venue. It’s a shame there couldn’t be an inoffensive ETO Show banner on the building, but at least info boards in the main concourse directed folks to the sunken entrance to the Ricoh Arena, and once faced by Satisfyer standees and the reception desks you knew you were in the right place.
Scanned in by polite and efficient security (I was challenged when not wearing my lanyard badge, which is exactly what you’d want) I was soon through the inner doors and into what was unquestionably a trade show; the shell scheme is a dead giveaway.
One important change was no ETO Awards night, replaced by Net 1on1 Wholesale-sponsored drinks, and there was also a later start on the Sunday to allow for a Sunday morning setup. Significant tweaks, but neither fundamentally changed the point of the Show.
One thing given frequent and heartfelt praise were the goody bags for every visitor, provided by Show sponsors Satisfyer. Crammed with four top quality toys with a retail value that would more than cover the fuel cost to attend, plus flyers and a copy of Cosmopolitan, they were rightly in high demand on both days.
I spent the first day catching up with folks from 12.30-5pm getting a feel for the Show, taking photos and warning exhibitors I’d like to get a few words with them on the Monday about the event, and as Monday dawned, bright but windy as Storm Gareth made its presence known, I was soon making good on those warnings. With so many exhibitors to get around, I was ‘on it’ pretty much as the doors opened at 10.30am.
Shibari Wands’ Danielle Seerley kicked off my day, saying: “We’re attending from the States and the Show’s been really exciting. We did an ETO Show maybe four years ago so it’s great to be back. We got lucky as we were on the waiting list and a spot opened up at the last minute. We’ve a new line here; the Voodoo range. We’re very proud of it. It celebrates The Year of the Woman, and as you can see from the box graphics, we’ve taken those themes of empowerment and diversity to heart. We want women to feel free to experience intimacy at their own leisure, independent of anyone else! It’s all about them. So the Voodoo line features real women – Black, Caucasian and Latina – on the packaging and the products are great quality while still being accessible to the beginner. Everything has a single controller and is designed and scaled to be unintimidating, a benefit to stores is they’re an easy sell thanks to that simplicity. The salesperson doesn’t have to learn how to access 17 different functions, and h’as time to focus on the sale rather than educate the consumer on features they may not want or need. We’ve launched with five Voodoo items and we’re delighted with the feedback we’ve had. This is the first show we’ve had them at and we’ve been kept very busy here.”
Adam Durack of Stark Distribution told me: “The Show’s been a good one. It’s always nice to get the chance to speak to retailers and meet with some of the smaller store owners who we might not know so well. Aromas are always popular, but we’ve had lots of interest in our Titus range of puppytails – not least the vibrating model which I think is still the only wirelessly remote-controlled vibrating puppytail on the market. There’s been a massive growth in the pup scene and they’re waterproof and rechargeable. You can operate multiple tails from one remote, so if you’ve a litter..! In addition to our own brands we also distribute for Spunk, Pjur, Swiss Navy and Oxballs, so we’re talking about our whole portfolio here, including the singlets, new harnesses – away from the traditional colour codes, there’s been a big demand for more funky colours for the pup scene, like pink and orange, camouflage, lime green, purple – and that broader range has been very well received.”
As I looked at FetishGear jocks Adam added: “I like the setting for the Show this year. It’s much more ‘conference hall’ than the ‘warehouse’ you had at the NEC and that’s condensed the atmosphere in a useful way. The smaller stand has meant we’ve been selective in what we could bring but it hasn’t been a barrier to explaining what Stark Distribution is all about. We’re not a one-stop distributor, but by being a specialist in a field with more bespoke products, our expertise and 38 years’ experience shines through.”
DVM Enterprises’ Mike McGee was bravely battling a 3.30am hangover (the social side of the ETO Show has always been important!) when I tiptoed onto the stand. He began: “We’ve been doing Hard Toys for about 18 months. Lots of shops have seen them but we’re meeting people with stores who’ve not had the pleasure before, so it’s great to introduce them to the range. It’s quite a collection so we’ve had a great response, as you can imagine. Consumers love the really big stuff, the weird and the wonderful, and Hard Toys are perfect for them. We’ve taken some good orders on those yesterday and on our heated wands too. They’re a bit upmarket for us, but the price is still right. Same is true of the Crazy Bull masturbators for the guys. That’s a great range with lots of variety, with more models to follow. They’ve been doing especially well, with orders and loads of interest at the Show. The packaging on them is particularly strong, with a mix of black and white and colour images really making the product jump out at you.”
Speaking about the Show, Mike concluded: “Yesterday was a really busy day, as you saw. Better than the last few ETO Shows for us. Hard to say what that’s down to, but we’ve no complaints. I hope today will continue in the same style. No DVDs on the stand – or at the Show – which isn’t to say we’ve moved away from them. We just wanted to bring something different with us and happily we’ve been pleased with the results. Good Show.”
A little further down the same wall, Becky Buffham of System Jo was a little more animated. When I said I’d seen Girl On The Net tweeting about the new Candy Shop range Becky said: “Cool! It’s a new range, with three flavours: butterscotch, bubblegum and cotton candy floss. Zero calories, no parabens or glycol and they’ve been really popular. We still have the Gelato dessert range, so the Candy Shop is an addition. They launched at the end of January and the packaging and POS are great. Only available in 60ml for now. As for the Show, it’s been another really good one. Lots of traffic, lots of intelligent questions and interest, so all good. As a chance to reconnect with customers who maybe moved away from System Jo, it’s brilliant. There’s been changes, not least teaming up with Eropartner Distribution, so it’s been a positive Show. I like the new setup – the timing, the value, easy to get to. I know Jonny got lots of feedback in the last couple of years and I think he’s listened and responded to the needs of the industry in a great way. I’ll be back next year.”
‘Fuck Vegans’ was not an easy sign to ignore, but the small print – it was preceded by ‘if you want to…’ and followed by ‘…use vegan condoms’ – put it in context. Jan Zenker of Adloran was talking Glyde Condoms. “The vegan community is growing, not least in Britain, and we’ve had a lot of success with our latex-free vegan condoms. Glyde is an Australian brand which we’ve been importing for 12 years and they’re available in different sizes, and flavours too. Cola, strawberry, blackberry, vanilla… We go up to 60mm, the SuperMax, and do a slim fit too. 60mm is the largest vegan condom on the market. We also stock vegan dams, the oral sex product. There are still people who aren’t familiar with dental dam products. Popular with sex workers and women’s prisons. Yes, we sell a lot for women-only institutions. Of course, anyone who wants to be on the safe side while maintaining a vegan lifestyle is a potential customer. They’re strong and stretchy, like the condoms.”
ABS Holdings’ Georgia Ashwell was accompanied on the company’s stand by representatives of Bathmate, Nexus, Wicked, and Liberator, but we’re also giving space to Oxballs, B Vibe, Pipedream, Doc Johnson, X-Gen. “And our own Linx, Kinx and Minx products as well,” she told me. “And Satisfyer too, of course! We’re not short of things to talk about and it’s been a really good Show in general. Yesterday was so busy I didn’t get lunch. Today’s quieter but we’ve more time and they’re more forthcoming about what they’re looking for. People are happier to chat for longer when they’re not under so much time pressure to get around. That helps when people want to order too. It makes it a more relaxed atmosphere, the longer day today. We’ve had a lot of love for all our vendors, but our own product has been so popular here. We have Prowler products too now of course. T-shirts, trunks, briefs, jockstraps, douches and so on. Room odourisers too. Thunderball we’ve carried for a while, but Dad is new. Great packaging.”
Clive Gore of GG&G Distribution held court by the door, next to ETO’s stand. He said: “We’ve not had the space to display everything, so we’ve been pushing people to ConsumeWorldwide.com, our site. It’s been constant on the stand, so it’s been a better Show than we’d anticipated, quite frankly. Interesting how many exhibitors from overseas are here. On the product front we’re still agents of Scala 2.0, so you’ll see brands you know from them, like Stimul8. We took on Secret Play about six months ago and that’s going very well. We’ve their new countertop display, with testers. That’s had a great reception and is going well. Room odourisers being a significant part of the business, we’ve pills, sprays, food supplements too. Repeat business is so important to shops, and consumables are the key to that. When we set up GG&G it was with that ‘bringing people back’ ethos in mind. It’s gone exceptionally well, still retaining our connection with Scala on the wider product range side. We’ve seen customers we’ve not seen in a long time here, which is great. I’d say ‘nicely busy’. Some of the earlier ETO Shows got a bit manic with the wrong sort of people just coming for freebies and there’s been none of that. That said, the Satisfyer bags have been good! They’ve definitely been an incentive to come.”
As Clive pointed out, one heartening feature for a UK trade show was the support it received from the wider world, with exhibitors attending from the US, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Bulgaria and beyond.
Take Massimo Artioli of Orgie: “I’m Italian, working with a Brazilian company based in Portugal, while living in Germany. International cooperation! We don’t know quite where that leaves the UK in a few weeks’ time, but it’s our goal to be in the UK market. It’s an important market and as a new company – just a year old – we believe in you!”
It helps that the Orgie range of lubes, tightener gel, warming creams etc has great Venetian mask inspired graphics with broad appeal. Massimo continued: “Using natural ingredients and avoiding artificial tastes, we like to offer a beautiful range. Mint flavours are always popular and we’ve had a lot of success with our clitoral arousal products. We added a kissable one. The collection is especially loved by ladies and couples, with massage oils, male potency, tingling products and delay lines. Orgie covers it all! It’s all about adding fun. The Hemp Oil range has a big following too, as it enhances sensations, and Sex Therapy is a kissable oil product for nipples or testicles; anywhere you want to massage and then kiss! It comes as a mini kit with a feather tickler too. Also a pearl massage kit, which comes with a necklace you can tease with. Great for adding excitement to proceedings for creative couples.”
One very creative couple at the Show, shortly celebrating 15 years in the industry, was Caz and Wayne Allen of E-Stim Systems. Ably assisted by Mick, they’d overcome such setbacks as a dropped showcase (a hired one, dropped by setup crew) to produce a welcoming stand. Wayne told me: “You saw E-Stim Connect at EroFame, but it’s the first time at a UK show. The real draw has been shiny things. We’ve a great selection of electro-insertables and the glossier something is, the more powerful its draw, we find. You missed me trying to put a Decimator – the giant brushed aluminium-looking electrode – back in a case without opening it first. A real ‘patio doors’ moment! Apart from that dozy moment, the Show’s been an interesting one. It’s been busier than we’d expected, I’ll be honest with you. Following the hiatus of the last two/three years, we weren’t entirely sure how it’d come back and we’re not completely sold on the venue, being smaller and the dark ceiling making it a bit dungeon-like, can I say? Mind you, I did an event at ExCeL in London which went totally the other way. It’s hard to maintain an atmosphere in an aircraft hanger and you’ve definitely not fallen into that trap. In contrast this is certainly more ‘buzzy’. Compact and bijou. In terms of visitor numbers, yesterday we were kept busy. Nicely busy. I don’t think the change of venue or season has scared visitors away. We saw a good mix of existing customers and people new to us, so it’s been useful and we’re hoping today can live up to it.”
Pamela Mann Legwear was a new addition to the Show, as Emma Nuttall explained: “It’s our first time here although Pamela Mann has been going since the ‘50s. She worked with Mary Quant, back in the day. Lust Legwear is the sub-brand we’ve launched for a racier market, while maintaining the high-end quality. The range comprises some best sellers, like lace-topped holdups, stockings, jive tights…” – I had to ask: they’re retro-styled tights with seams – “…so we’ve the sexy products and the Show has been really helpful in helping us decide on packaging options. Yes, it’s as new as that! We’ve launched Lust here and feedback has helped steer us away from the black, grey or pink boxes we had been considering, towards a gold finish. So useful to talk to retailers and it’s been really good. The reaction to the products too. Really positive and really happy with how yesterday went. Perhaps the most commented-on products were the all in one suspender belts and stockings. It’s a very easy to wear item which doesn’t compromise on the sexiness. The range is Italian made and we pride ourselves on not sacrificing desirability for practicality. The detailing is still there, along with the quality.”
I’d last met Marta Rzymek, international sales manager for Noir Handmade, at EroFame and she told me: “Nice to meet you again! We’re attending the ETO Show for the first time. It’s been very busy and a nice opportunity to meet our UK-based customers in person. Always lovely! What’s been big here for us? F182! It’s a mesh dress with long sleeves and a high neck, with stripes. The PVC corset is separate. Our wet look ranges are always popular too. They’re in sizes from small (a UK 8) to 3XL, or even 6XL in some lines. Something for all shapes and sizes, and we have three men’s collections too.”
Matthew Barton of Adult Creative was promoting web design services, but with an adult twist as the name suggests. He said: “We also help with branding, logos, PHP7 – the latest code – and mobile-responsive sites, back-office, e-commerce platforms, API… You can dropship, stock control, shipping, integrate with Sage – all of your account systems – webcam platforms, agency sites, the whole shebang! There’s not much we don’t do. One of our strongest points is the SEO [Search Engine Optimisation] side of things. You can have the best site in the world, but if you don’t get the traffic… We’ve been working on SEO for six or seven years and began with the escort industry. It’s a competitive market and we’ve used our experience to get people onto page one [of search results]. It’s our first ETO Show and it’s been great to meet people. We’re working on an e-commerce template system and the feedback’s been good, to be fair. Lots of interest!”
A much more familiar face – in the nicest possible way – was Jane Bowles of Creative Conceptions. I caught her at a rare quiet moment and she commented: “It has been, I have to say, a very busy Show. It’s exceeded expectations. We’ve had lots to talk about too. Sportsheets are launching new packaging with magnetic-close boxes, with more diversity in the imagery – more girl-on-girl and boy-on-boy – and there’s beautiful use of spot gloss. Definitely a significant upgrade in presentation. There’s also a new vegan premium-look line in beautiful deep red and black with velveteen storage bags, and all at a really great price. It looks like it ought to carry a hefty price tag but nope. Great value. It’s beautiful and we’re very excited about it.”
I was also shown Skins lubricants (joining the condom range) with fruity flavours, tingling etc, new Colt Camo lines, Fleshlight – including a new rechargeable penis pump – and Cosmopolitan toys. “They’ll shortly be getting a big marketing boost”, added Jane. “It makes it a really good time to pick up the range. We’ve seen good pick up on those.”
There were Happy Rabbits, Fifty Shades Official, and several new games too. Jane explained: “We keep a lot of focus on games as in the US it really is what we’re known for as many of the brands we carry in the UK have their own representation there. So, here we have OSG – Our Sex Game – which is gender neutral, and two new dice games. The Foreplay version was really successful so we’ve added Kinky and Sex versions too. The Quickie Gags are something you won’t have seen before. Quickie Cuffs we’ve had a while – the silicone stretchy cuffs – and they’ve done so well we wanted to introduce more lines into the range. We’ve expanded to gags, with all in one silicone gags in black and red – the pink here was a development colour – in both ball and bit variants. Quick and easy. The ball type is getting a smaller ball version too, for beginners or loud people with small mouths like me! We’re very excited about those.”
Also on the Creative Conceptions stand was Manon Vallee of Shunga, showing four flavours of Essential Body Powder, among other lines. It’s a fine dust product that reminded me of an erotic encounter involving sherbet that… I once heard about. Great for massage, and it even comes with a feather tickler in the tin too.
O Products’ Hans Spaans had also been kept busy. I caught him during a rare lull to ask about the Show. He said: “We’ve been very satisfied with the Show. We’ve a bunch of new products to expose here and we’ve seen lots of people on both days, who’ve been interested. As a Dutch company we’re not so well known here and this is our first ETO Show. We have existing customers here in the UK so it’s been great to see them, and also talk to new customers. The mix makes for success. Maybe we’re best known for our Kiotos brand here. The name comes from a street across from our office. We were looking for a name for the line and it was staring back at us. It doesn’t mean anything in Dutch. It’s just a word. The Kiotos Cox were launched about a month ago. They’re odourless TPR which you can use any sort of lube with, and they’re priced very well. They’ve proven popular already. We make around 3,500 SKUs, including the Pixey Wands, and the deluxe wireless model, coming in April. ABS case, powerful, with a rechargeable battery which will run for an hour. Also, you can use it as a 2.5m corded wand while it’s charging. We’ve had good reactions across the board. People like our products and that’s why we’re here.”
Also impressive, a multi-purpose gag with toilet roll holder and ashtray options, black rubber ‘champagne bottle’ dildos, BDSM starter kits, glass and new packaging.
Calandra Balfour of LoveGivr occasionally gets called colander, I discovered while visiting the stand. She also told me: “LoveGivr is an e-commerce platform – an adult Amazon Marketplace if you like – with a combined sexy social media side. It’s ideal for all adult businesses or sex toy brands to use as a retail outlet. Lingerie too, but also for promoting sex-positive events, blogging, all sorts of things. We also have an affiliate programme where people can recommend products and get a percentage. It’s free to join, free to sell – less our percentage – which we use in part to support sex-positive charities. They can struggle to get visibility on some social media sites, but not LoveGivr.”
Calandra added: “The Show’s been really good. So good. It’s the first time we’ve exhibited here and it’s been really positive. We’ve stayed busy the whole time and people have been very open to chatting with us. It’s been a worthwhile experience. Very much worth it. We look forward to doing it next year, fingers crossed.”
She shoots, she scores
Although I’ve a bad habit of calling it ‘Nude Temptations’, New Temptations is the name of the lingerie, nightwear, swimwear and playwear business, as well I know. Faye Simcock told me: “We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the revived Show and we’ve been very busy with a great turnout. Exhibitors and visitors alike. Yesterday was pretty frantic at times and yeah, good Show! We’ve been promoting the new Dreamgirl Simply Sexy collection, which has some great bright colours for this time of year. Neon yellows, coral, turquoise. Definite eye-catchers! They’ve helped bring people onto the stand. The Show feels more compact and I think that’s helped visitors get to see everyone. They don’t get lost on the bigger stands. I think it’s nice that it feels more intimate and inclusive. Less dominated by a handful of super-stands.”
Shalom Yaes of Woosexy – mostly known for Pleaser shoes and boots – was keen to show there’s more to the business at the ETO Show. He told me: “We’re one of the two Pleaser distributors in the UK and the Republic of Ireland and we offer no minimum orders, dropshipping, fast delivery – we make it easy for the trade to deal with us. Pleaser is a very high profile brand for the fetish footwear market and customers always come back for the mix of great quality and reasonable prices. They’re used to the fitting and often expand their collections because they know exactly what they’re looking for. Our retailers see a lot of repeat custom. Away from Pleaser, we stock Music Legs, costumes, petticoats, hosiery and lingerie. Also gloves, accessories. Plus the Forplay range. The brand also has a wide range of playwear, uniforms, other costumes. Old friends from when we had shops on Hollywood Boulevard. Well known and respected brands. The Show’s produced lots of meet and greets and opportunities to talk to people who stocked Music Legs and Forplay from other suppliers in the past. We’re happy to help them continue with us.”
Attending from Hull, Gareth Laycock of Alterego Lingerie said: “We’ve had a busy stand. Absolutely. We’d a great day yesterday, seeing existing customers as well as new people, which is what we like. We had a good evening last night too – maybe a bit too good! – although we threw the towel in at 12:30am, early compared to some! On the stand we’ve had a load of interest in Shirley of Hollywood, Ballerina, and Beauty Night. The latter getting extra attention from new customers. That’s a boxed range we can sell for stock or fulfilment, and it’s beautiful. They’ve updated the packaging and it’s been warmly received. The Ballerina hosiery sells very well, and we’re showing the new Blue Night range here. 445 is a design that’s been selling exceptionally well. We carry plus size ranges using plus size models who look gorgeous. HOT from Shirley of Hollywood is always a solid seller, offering Queen sizes too, and just a really good range. By the time this is in the mag we’ll have its new catalogue, so will have lots of new lines once that lands.”
At the other end of the erotic spectrum from the frills and bows of lingerie, Hismith’s Givano Cheong was showing a plethora of sex machines. To a background hum of whirring wangs he commented: “We’ve had a useful Show and found lots of new leads. We’ve had great feedback on some of the newer products we’ve brought with us, including a 3D printed sample of a compact sex machine. A travel version that’s tiny compared to traditional machines, but still packs a lot of power. You can even change the thrust distance. Even though we don’t have a finished example here, we can see that’s going to be a really popular product. We’re also showing a new thrusting vibrator with rotating beads. Very colourful and lots of functions.”
Hismith was also demoing a development version of a pulsating vibe, which bulged and shrunk along the shaft. There needs to be a simple word for such ‘girth expanders’ as there is for thrusters. Stretchers probably isn’t it… pulsators?
Givano continued: “I need to tell you, we launched an app. It allows the sex machines to be controlled remotely, over the ‘net, for long-distance interaction. We’ve also changed our connection system to a ‘KlicLok’ system which allows for fast swapping of dildos, or adding a suction-cup base. We’re making updates across our range but it’s easy for consumers to adapt existing Hismith machines. The connectors simply unscrew and are replaced.”
No less mesmerising was Laura Wood on the Lovehoney stand who, when I asked what was new and exciting, told me: “Three new Happy Rabbits Minis, with 15 functions, still packing the same USB-rechargeable punch as the larger models. Waterproof for bathtime fun too! We’ve a new Fifty Shades collection launching around September as well, which is looking really impressive. After a two year break the Show’s come back all guns blazing. Yesterday was really positive and while today’s been a little slower, that’s Mondays for you. Always wonderful to catch up with customers and meet new people too. All the people I’ve spoken to are well worth following up so we’re pleased with the quality of visitors too.”
Orrange Toys, from southern Netherlands, not far from the German border, told me: “It’s our first time in the UK as exhibitors. We’re showing bondage lines, including gift sets, and Zenn boxed products. It’s a new series with 250 products across a broad range of fetishes. From cuffs and collars, to whips, tunnel plugs… We also have more mainstream toys. The Show’s been good. Today’s quieter but we’ve made new contacts – always positive.”
Beyond the EAN magazine stand I found Cobeco Pharma’s Lisa van der Laan. She commented: “Good Show. We’ve had quite a few customers talking about expanding their range with us. We can white label or brand everything and do everything from the start; such as in-house formulas, tablets, capsules, lubricants, etc. It’s a very broad range; always worth looking at our website as the list of options is long! Cobeco Pharma has exhibited at ETO Shows before, but not me personally. First time and very pleased with how friendly it is. It’s been great so far. Not been to the UK before so it’s been a fun trip.”
Also visiting from overseas – rather further than the Netherlands – was Kosmo Lupo and Kimi Star. Kosmo Lupo showed colourful toys, including rabbits in a cute range of shades, while Kimi Star had polyurethane (latex-free) condoms and rather more imposing advanced sex dolls.
Classified Costumes and Lingerie were too busy to chat, but I saw always popular lines, with pretty designs. Lace bodies, mesh lines and hosiery too. Great to see them at the Show for the first time, I think.
Definitely making his ETO Show debut and showing CockCam, Charlie Hudson of Julz Holdings told me: “It’s a wearable camera on a cock ring. Simple as that. It’s rechargeable and has a wide angle lens. There’s also a night vision feature that uses six infrared lights to illuminate the action in total darkness. That’s a wicked feature you don’t get anywhere else. Silicone cock ring and HD camera – 1280 by 720 – in perfect harmony! See TheCockCamera.com for full technical specs. There’s a secure app for streaming too. It’s a fantastic product and we’re excited about it. The reception at the Show has been brilliant. Really positive.”
Lars Lubbers of Dusedo Distribution was showing a small fraction of the company’s range (a feature of the Show’s layout, focusing exhibitors on new and best sellers) and kindly talked me through a selection. He explained: “The Sport Fucker brand is one we have exclusivity on in Europe. It’s a high-quality range of cock and ball gear for men. There are sounds, small plugs, ass-locks, cock rings, ball stretchers. They’re known for their unique shapes and durability, in a variety of colours. We make black products, but choice is important too. You’ll see a lot of people come onto the stand to see the fucking machine, which is doing well for us. The Show started off really busy and while it’s been quieter today there’s still lots of people here. Maybe the party last night was a factor too? I think so!”
As I was leaving I caught sight of something very unusual and asked Lars to fill me in. “This is the Pod Suit,” he told me. “A neoprene, groin-and-butt-exposing ‘arm strangling’ suit that has no sleeves. It’s a bit like a bodybag or straitjacket. Your partner zips you in and it pins your arms to your side. It’s unusual. There are mummification products out there, but this is something a bit different, in neoprene. As a material the demand is climbing. People like that it’s a little softer than leather, and that no cows died.”
Nina Saini of Temptation Holidays was a familiar and friendly face. She said: “We recently launched an affiliate programme, offering 10% commission on select holidays. What’s been really interesting is the positive feedback from retailers here, as well as people in the trade simply looking to book a great holiday for themselves. We’re offering a promo code at the Show – ETO10 – and that’s for a limited time only, so if you’re interested, get yourself to our website quickly! It’s a discount that pays dividends because having experienced the quality, the high end aspects of the holiday and how tastefully it’s done, it becomes a much easier sell. They’re open-minded adult holidays for over 21s and lots of those booking are couples. Going with a partner means you can engage with others or not – you’ve got options – but either way you’re going to have a fantastic holiday.”
Rouge’s Kerry Hart was another woman on a mission to spread happiness. Through sexy products rather than sexy travel though, as she explained: “We’ve new burgundy snake print and black accessory range. Cuffs, collar, blindfold, flogger, lead, paddle and ball gag; a whole collection in leather, with powder-coated black metal details. Rouge also has two new riding crops, including a shorter one that’s great for travel. Those are in red, blue, pink, black and purple, with a tough fibreglass core. There’s also two new floggers in the range, suede and leather, and a stainless steel plug with removable fur tail. We’ll see how that goes but interchangeable plugs and tail types is a future option. Also new, we’ve this red ball gag on a stainless steel rod, which unscrews to allow the ball to be removed and thus becomes a bit gag. Easy cleaning, with a leather strap and good margin for retailers. We’ve been constantly busy. Even with the three of us it was all go yesterday and the quality has been high. We’ve taken good orders and seen plenty of new people, so good on all fronts!”
Back of the net
Show sponsors Satisfyer complemented its generous goody bags with a top quality stand. I had to congratulate Charlotte Joseph on both. She excitedly replied: “Aren’t they great? Amazing products in there; a bit of everything from Satisfyer! The Heat Vibration for men… A range launched into the UK at the start of the year is SatisfyerVibes, which includes a new and improved rabbit – a classic. Everyone loves a rabbit! – and as a collection it’s very colourful, fun and funky. You’ve seen the Hippo and Flower Power in addition to Mr Rabbit, training balls too. They’re new too. Great Kegel products. Launched at the end of last year is the Satisfyer Partner Plus – one in the goody bag! – which is a multi-fun product for him, her and them. A really really versatile toy. We’re very proud to be at the ETO Show and supporting it. First time here for us and it’s been very exciting. We’ve been very busy because we cater for all. Men, women, couples: everything for everyone!”
Equally sparky, ElectraStim’s Sophie Anthony was very energised as she told me about the firm’s new Axis controller which uses a sensor to respond to gestures and proximity as well as featuring ‘classic’ control buttons. She explained: “These are amazing. You can control it with music, using the built-in mic, or using the traditional switches. It’s the most advanced controller on the market, with seven patterns, with around 10 options in each, there are multiple ways to use it for solo play but the optical control system is what really sets it apart. As you move your hand closer, the power output ramps up. Brilliant for teasing.”
A demonstration followed, with the Axis being played like a silent theremin but I could see the unit responding via an OLED display. There’s also a Minority Report-like gesture setting, where the user can flick between settings and menus by moving their hands in view of the optical sensor, like they were dealing invisible cards.
Sophie concluded: “It’s been my first ETO Show as an exhibitor although I’ve attended as a buyer before. Dealing with shops and other retail customers has been amazing and we’ve met loads of people and made new contacts. Introducing existing customers to Axis too. It’s been an interesting mix of people. ElectraStim has a really big, exciting year ahead, with new products launching in July. Top secret, never been seen before stuff!”
Attending from Spain was Gabor Gomori of Dreamlove. “We’re a manufacturer of many brands,” he explained. “I think 30 different brands. Visitors have loved our Cyber Silicock thrusting and twisting dildos with remote control. They’re rechargeable and waterproof, vibrating and moving. Another product that’s got lots of attention is the Fun Function rabbit toy with a flexible shaft to position the vibrations just where they’re wanted, and a ‘cat-lick’ clit-stim wheel of petals. Three motors, for the wheel, the vibrations and a ‘come hither’ flex. Only in purple, and rechargeable. So many brands. It might be easier to see Dreamlove.es site. We also work with Pipedream, Fleshlight – over 250 different brands in total. We hold lots of stock so availability is always good. Cici Beauty was in ETO magazine. That’s a high-end silicone range with interchangeable control/power units. Five different models, but a shared controller. Fetish is a line of bondage and kink products, without nickel, and with great looking packaging. Vegan, and really good pricing. First time at the ETO Show but it won’t be the last time. Both days have been very good. Five people in our team and we’re all busy, all of the time. We’ve been working very hard, but we’re happy. Great results from the Show and encouraging for growing our UK business.”
Also from Spain, Secret Play’s Yasmina Martinez needlessly apologised for her English before explaining: “We’re based in Valencia and we specialise in manufacturing games, cosmetics and edible products. For example, our new lip gloss with vibration. It’s for oral sex and gives a powerful tingle. It can be applied by kissing or to the genitals directly and both in a couple get the tingle. It’s called Vibrant Kiss and it comes in mint, cola, popcorn, donut, brownie, and strawberry flavours. We also have edible lubes, in chocolate, caramel and so on. The white chocolate tastes amazing! Our games include Out of Routine, which is sometimes recommended by sex therapists as a way of breaking routines for couples who’ve been together a long time. We also have a sexy ‘match cards’ card game, where you perform what you match for a minute. It’s a memory game but the ‘distractions’ maybe don’t help!”
After we chuckled about added pressure, Yasmina continued: “We also have pretty jewelled plugs, in small and medium, in six colours. All polished aluminium. No nickel. I’ll also show you our bondage kits with eight pieces; a blindfold, collar with lead, 10m rope, ankle and wrist cuffs that can be used for hogtie. Vegan, in purple, red and black. Cruelty-free. We use natural ingredients and are always developing new products. For the Show, it’s been good.”
David South of Pipa West, representing G-Vibe in the UK was also looking happy. He told me: “We’ve been showing the new G-Jack soft-touch vibrator, which has a very silky finish, and the new G-Rabbit. It’s also in the BioSkin silicone material. It warms quickly in use. You know the G-Bulb. That’s making a lot of people smile. Something a bit different. A massage/pebble type rechargeable product that’s in the shape of a pink lightbulb. We’ve done ETO Shows before and have met lots of interesting people at this one. Especially today and it’s been enthusiastic. Yesterday included first-timers looking at the industry, setting up in business, but today has been more existing clients and established businesses.”
WOW Tech Europe – the hybrid of Womanizer and We-Vibe’s merger – took a while to speak to due to the stand always being busy but perseverance finally got me Gesa Falke to chat to. She told me: “It’s been a busy Show for us. I like the intimate atmosphere and it’s been crowded. I’ve been talking a lot about the Moxie, our new panty vibrator. It has a magnetic attachment to put it in the perfect place and hold it there. There’s a remote control feature, so it’s great for couples too. That works with a smartphone app. On the Womanizer side we have the Duo, a dual stimulator with a G-spot vibe and clitoral stimulator. It has the famous Pleasure Air technology but integrated with the We-Vibe tech. It uses the motor from the Nova. A crossover product. It’s in black and Bordeaux red and it’s a beautiful design. Retail is about £179 on that, and it has our Smart Silence feature which launched last year.”
Simon Greenwood of LTC Heathcare/EXS Condoms commented: “We’ve been to lots of ETO Shows and this compares well. We’ve had lots of chats with folks and it’s a smaller, more enclosed environment. I think that’s good. It keeps everyone more together and feels really appropriate for who and what’s here. So that’s fantastic. We’ve enjoyed it and met good people, both of which count! The opportunity to service existing customers is brilliant, but we’ve been surprised by how many people we’ve met from outside the UK, which is encouraging. As you’d expect we’ve been asked about Brexit and how we expect it to affect us and the short answer is who knows? Our products are manufactured outside of the EU so there may be less impact there and the weakness of the pound is currently making us a more attractive supplier. That’s helping us expand our European market. Inside the UK most people know us but there’s always opportunities to expand their stocked range and we support the ETO Show as it’s ideal for that purpose. We’ve definitely met more new people too. We’ve had a big push on the G Lover, which now comes with separate batteries. It’s a vibrating cock ring that’s reusable. It’s been very successful.”
Swiss Navy’s Randal aka Randy Withers from Canada but now based in Florida said: “I actually spend over eight months a year in the UK and across Europe. The reason being the brand has really taken off in the last few years and it’s thanks to our distribution partners that they’ve got the product out there. They’ve been great. The Swiss Navy message is one of healthy sex and wellness in relationships. It’s been embraced! ABS Holdings, Stark Distribution and Shots are all doing a great job. We appreciate their hard work. We’ve no new lines to show yet this year but the existing ones are very solid and we’ve had a very busy Show again.”
The pitch is back
Daniel Smith of AdultSure kept it short and sweet, saying: “We’re experts in insuring the adult industry. From retailers to adult-only clubs and pro Dommes. As you know, lots of mainstream insurers don’t like the word ‘sex’ but we understand the market and cover people properly. Lots of retailers here and we’ve been able to speak directly to decision makers, and they’re following up meeting us by calling the office for quotes, so that’s brilliant. Good to see. Been busy. Very busy. We didn’t expect it to be this busy.”
As chance would have it, the next stand I found with a me-shaped gap on it was FP Adult Insurance, where Kelly Vincent told me: “We provide insurance to the adult industry. People had experienced issues with regular insurers being less than open to the market, and we saw that as an opportunity to provide a better service. That’s how we began and here we are! We’ve been impressed by how the Show has come back. It’s been really good actually. I guess it’s smaller but it’s still doing exactly what it needs to do. Sunday was extra busy, with just two of us on the stand. I hope we got to speak to everyone who wanted to chat, but if we didn’t, please call! Today’s a nice steady stream and we’re getting more time with everyone, which is good. A little less pressure to wrap conversations up. Thumbs up!”
Tenga Europe’s Tina Carter was keen to talk when I met her on the stand: “I think you saw these in the Show preview feature, in ETO? It’s the Flip Orb. The newest product we’re showing here. They’re not even on our website yet so that tells you how hot off the presses they are! They’re the latest addition to the Flip series of male masturbators Tenga makes, they feature a cap that keeps the insertion point clean, which you flip open to add lube. The Orb part of the name comes from these small hard balls within the elastomer, which adds a whole new sensation to the textural element. We’ve launched these with two models – the blue and the orange variants – which have different layouts and different textures to the elastomer. Wavy lines for the blue, in a zigzag pattern, and knobbles for the orange, in a linear arrangement. Different strokes for different folks! In use the cap goes on the other end to keep it closed, and you can add pressure with pads that allow you to squeeze. That’ll force air out and give you the vacuum. Flip open to wash and dry, pop the cap on the end again and you’re all set for next time. Obviously the sensation of use is all important, but it’s a very practical product too.”
Also on the Tenga Europe stand, the Spinner was launched at the end of 2018 and is a soft-sleeve product with a coil within it, which rotates when pulled to spiral around the gentleman’s sausage in a very pleasing way. Three different internal textures offer a variety of experiences, but they all have this ‘stretch, unravel, coil’ feature which gives them the name: Spinner. “Up, down and all around!” as Tina put it.
SVR Plus is a more powerful version of the SVR cock ring, available in three colours (black, white, and red wine). Tina finished the tour saying, “It’s been a great Show. We’ve seen lots of people who aren’t familiar with Tenga products and are excited to see the range. Of course we’ve seen existing stockists who want to know what’s new. They’ve seen the ad in ETO this month and want to know more! Some products you have to see to get, so the Show’s been a great place to launch the Flip Orbs.”
Back in the world of clothing and heels (plus wigs, accessories, lingerie, hosiery, etc) I met David Rennison of Kevco Wholesale who commented: “It’s nice to be back. It’s been a good Show. Yesterday was particularly busy and today’s followed the trend of quality over quantity so we’re happy. We’ve met new customers – always great – and they’re not all start-ups. There are still established people who’ve not crossed our radar, surprisingly. It’s been a very good Show. Being more condensed, more concentrated it’s better for visitors I think. As an exhibitor we’re not feeling like second-class citizens for having a medium-sized stand. The change has been quite democratising, if that’s the word? We don’t feel less important than anyone else. That’s good. I like that. I think it’s produced a better atmosphere. The location’s good, the on site hotel’s been fantastic. We booked early and got a good deal. It’s been a success for us and I hope it has been for ETO too. I’ll be straight with you – before the doors opened on the first day we were sat nervously but as everyone swarmed in it was like, ‘Wow, the ETO Show is back!’ kind of thing. I hope we’ll be back next year.”
Cupid Labs was showing delay sprays, male potency products and more. A representative from the company told me: “We’ve come to the ETO Show from Bulgaria to present our range of all natural products, using herbal extracts. Oral jelly – Makagra – in 10g. It’s a male enhancement product you eat and 30-40 minutes later you have a great reaction. We came to London for SexpoUK and are back for ETO. We’ve met many partners here, face to face, shown off new products and we have been very happy with the Show.
The legendary Lulu, now of Mystim, was rocking extra-red hair as she told me: “The Opus E. Say it fast. Say it faster! It’s an e-stim masturbator sleeve with sets of electrodes down either side that can be either powered from any of our control boxes or with the new wireless remote-controlled Cluster Buster powerpack. Those are rechargeable and have a 15m range. The inserts are available in butt, pussy or generic circular opening and the vaginal one has a realistically textured canal. They’re dual density too, so feel great even before you flick the power on. The textured black case with pink detailing is very ergonomic and looks great. Practical as well as it all comes apart easily for hassle-free cleaning. What you can do is buy your Cluster Buster, which comes with one receiver/powerpack, and then you can add more. Up to eight, all controlled from one remote. You set one doing something, click to the next and set that off, and so on. All the electrodes can all be being used by one person, or you could be playing with multiple partners. That’s a party! The LCD screen shows you what you’re doing to each device, and which is doing what. Imagine eight Opus Es at the same time. I think that image makes this the most amazing product at the Show! Speaking of the Show, yesterday was super busy. Today’s been more laid back but we’ve got to see a lot of great people and you know I love it here in the UK. Being by the doors has been good and the retailers here are always awesome.”
From Axel in the Netherlands, Tonga was showcasing a wide range of products. Anne-Marie de Jonge commented: “So busy! Yesterday and today. We’ve been introducing new Dream Toys lines – anal toys, female-focused, lots of vibrators – and our own Naghi and Blaze brands. Also Guilty Pleasure bondage and fetish clothing. We’ve extended that line with leather, printed Datex, wet look and added new Datex items too. Lots to talk about. It’s kept us busy! We’ve had a different kind of customer on the stand today but both days have given us new customers.”
I caught up with Hein Schouten and Brad Taylor of Shots shortly before the Show closed at 4pm. Hein said: “We’ve been happy right by the door. It’s a good position because we can’t be missed as people come in. The Show’s been away for two years and it’s great that it’s back. I think the UK market is important for us, and we have loyal customers here. As you know, Brad is our guy here – it’s not me dealing with the UK any more – and he’s been showing all the EroFame releases which we brought with us. Not everyone goes there so it’s a good chance for us to show them to the trade here.”
Brad added: “Yesterday was really fun. Such an influx of customers and a great buzz in the room. We’ve been really really pleased with the Show. Honestly, a very pleasant surprise. I hope the whole ETO team are feeling pleased with how it’s come together after the break. We’ve seen the right sort of people here and I’d say we’d seen a smaller percentage of folks not yet in a position to do business – the curious, the nearly-start-ups – which is encouraging. Not to say anyone’s been unwelcome but it’s good for us to be talking to established businesses. Maybe the next Lovehoney has been in today, so everyone gets time and respect. A very positive Show, with a great location, with a real focus on what’s new. That was the brief from Jonny and you’re only seeing recent releases on the stand. It keeps things fresh and helps us focus on expanding the lines retailers take from us. Our latest and greatest!”
I also really liked the new approach. With no mega-stands the Show felt more like a level playing field, and the new venue at the Ricoh Stadium was a good match. I hope it becomes a fixture. All puns intended. Predictably not everything went to plan for everyone but I’m confident enough worked for the ETO Show to return in 2020. That would be the perfect vision.