Why Walmart Is Selling Adult Sex Toys for the First Time
Here’s one thing you won’t find at Walmart on Black Friday: vibrators and other sex toys deemed too X-rated for the family-friendly retailer. Yet such bedroom paraphernalia is available on Jet.com, the e-commerce site that Walmart acquired for $3 billion last fall.
That’s just one of several differences Walmart had to adjust to when it bought the online shopping startup Jet.com, whose entrepreneurial culture also had a tradition of in-office drinking, something that Walmart policy prohibited. Though Jet’s employee happy hours initially moved to local bars, they have since returned to the office by popular demand—and Walmart management’s acquiescence, Liza Landsman, the recently promoted president of Jet.com, said Tuesday.
The executives in Bentonville, Ark., where Walmart (WMT) is based, also had to get used to selling certain products that previously were considered too risque for the discount chain’s shelves.
“I had some really fun conversations early on—I used to joke with [Walmart’s] head of compliance that the only thing we ever talked about was sex. Because we sell adult products on Jet,” Landsman said at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif. “And those are really products that aren’t, pretty much, sold on Walmart.com or in Walmart stores.”
For example, Jet even sells products such as sex furniture and “anatomically correct male genitalia”—or dildos, Landsman said. “Which makes sense for an affluent, urban consumer,” which is Jet’s target market, she explained. “These are obviously products that people often prefer to buy in the discretion of their own homes.”
While Walmart has been selling certain no-frills vibrators for several years, the graphic nature of some of the sexual props that Jet stocked presented a challenge. “Their feedback to us was, ‘Some of the items don’t have such tasteful images. Kids are shopping on the site,'” Landsman recounted.
The ultimate solution: Jet added a “gate” in front of its online sex toy department, so shoppers must click a button attesting that they are at least 18 years old in order to browse the selection.
Landsman, however, had imagined another way of dealing with the problem that might have generated more sales: “Like oh, we should just put up a sign that says ‘too sexy for the Internet’ and then our conversion rate will quadruple,” she said at the conference. “But we did not do that because we’re responsible corporate citizens.”