Q&A with Colleen Bertino, chief operating officer
Number of stores: 12 in Minnesota and New Jersey
Flagship location: St. Louis Park, Minn.
Flagship size: 2,700 square feet
Year opened: 1980
Ted Vayos, BODY: Describe your store.
Colleen: We have open and inviting stores with floor plans that range from 1400 square feet to 3,000 square feet. We carry lingerie, hosiery, shoes, personal toys for women and men, educational and feature DVDs, lubricants, massage products, games, greeting cards and bachorlette novelties. The stores are merchandised with the lingerie, cards, novelties and softer toys up front with the DVDs and more realistic items in back; we do not separate into rooms. We currently have two store designs: one a bit louder with yellow walls and bright tile floors; the other more subdued with caramel-colored walls, maple or cherry slat walls and dark blue carpeting. We use slat grid to create floor displays and use many vendor-supplied fixtures too. Mannequins from Sexy Mannequins show off the lingerie and provide a fun atmosphere.
Ted: What makes your store special?
Colleen: We have always been proud of the stores’ appeal to everyone. While many stores focus on women or gay customers, we have created a product mix that appeals to everyone — male, female, gay, straight — and every size as well. We have carried plus-size lingerie for years. We have multiple clean, well-organized locations with plenty of parking in the suburbs and the cities.
Ted: What brands are important to your store?
Colleen: For lingerie, we carry Dreamgirl, Seven ’til Midnight, Escante, Shirley of Hollywood, Elegant Moments, Sik World, Magic Silk, Male Power, Nitran and Andrew Christian. For novelties, we carry Topco, Pipedream, Lelo, Njoy, Pjur, Foreplay, Hott Products, California Exotic Novelties, Sinclair, ID and Tantus.
Ted: Describe popular styles or trends in your store.
Colleen: Packaged lingerie has been popular for years now, as well as both lower- and higher-priced personal toys. Sik World’s panties are very popular. Vegan and natural lubricants are growing in popularity. The parody DVDs are good sellers too. We have always sold silicone toys and love that there is a much larger price range and selection; our customers love it too. The Debauched Bustier from Seven ’til Midnight and the maid outfit from Escante are so popular, we have a hard time keeping them in stock. Our customers are very practical and look for good prices on well-made items, and we work hard to provide them with
what they want.
Ted: What are your price and size ranges?
Colleen: We carry a variety of price points; customers are very price-aware and are looking for a good value. We carry sizes S to 3X in women’s lingerie and S to XL in menswear. For the less expensive items, the one-size-fits-most items have been doing well, as they are great for bachorlette and birthday gifts.
Ted: What is your average customer size?
Colleen: We sell more large sizes here in the Midwest; folks are comfortable shopping with us because not everything is teeny-tiny.
Ted: What does the average customer spend per visit?
Colleen: The current average sale is about $40. Most sales are all over the place — folks come in for a bottle of lube or card, or they could drop a couple hundred dollars on lingerie and toys.
Ted: Describe your customer base.
Colleen: Our customers are 60 percent female, 40 percent male with an age range from mid-20s to early 70s. They fit every demographic. We are very proud of our varied customer base.
Ted: Is there any other information you wish to share?
Colleen: I think we are most proud of helping to break down barriers and misunderstandings about what Fantasy Gifts is and the merchandise we carry. It does get a bit frustrating to see the big box stores carry more and more of our product without pushback from consumers. I guess it is the hypocrisy of every company out there using sex to sell its particular product, and still I can barely the word "sex" in a commercial without people freaking out. We are a store for grown-ups; not everything has to be for all ages and we don’t pretend to be. We are happy to be a place to shop for all folks who want a healthy personal life. Running a family business can be difficult, but we have managed it even after the passing of my father Robert three and half years ago. Working with my mother, brother and sister definitely makes for conversations that most families don’t have, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t have it any other way.