Case Study: Retail, Adult Stores & Disability Inclusion

We speak with Jules Pearce from Flirt Adult Stores to unpack how they are putting inclusion at the centre of their business model.

By
Kate Maslen
24/4/24
-
7 min
read

Here at Ariel Community, we have the absolute pleasure of discovering and promoting some of the best businesses in Australia doing their part for disability inclusion, accessibility & allyship. One business in particular is Flirt Adult Stores, a pioneering force in the realm of sexual wellness and pleasure products for people with disability.

In this exclusive interview, we delve into Flirt's journey, exploring their dedication to inclusivity, their efforts to challenge stereotypes, and their commitment to providing a welcoming and accommodating environment for all customers through inclusive initiatives and staff accessibility training. From their extensive range of gender-neutral products to their personalised shopping experiences, Flirt is leading the charge in promoting sexual health and pleasure for everyone.

Join us as we speak to he brilliant Jules Pearce from Flirt and uncover the inspiring story of Flirt Adult Stores, while discovering how they are revolutionising the landscape of sexual wellness, one inclusive initiative at a time.

Can you tell us a bit about Flirt Adult Stores and the range of sexual wellness and pleasure products you offer, both online and in-person? 

Flirt first opened in Bathurst NSW on 17th December, 2003.  The owner saw a need for adult products in the country.  Since our first opened store, Flirt now has 15 stores and we are the largest adult retailer in NSW. Our stores are located in Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo, Nowra, Wagga, Tamworth, Armidale, Hamilton, St Marys, Darlinghurst, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Cessnock, Erina & Woy Woy. We have a huge variety of premium products online and in stores.  The adult industry and quality of products have come a long way over the last 20 years with rechargeable products the biggest change.  

Inclusiveness plays a major role in designs of toys and manufacturers are aware when developing new lines.  There are many products designed for people who may have limited mobility, such as sex couches. These are designed for people who might find the ‘traditional’ sex positions uncomfortable.  A sleek, sexy couch is much more appealing and less clinical to previous options.  Flirt has a variety of furniture for helping the less mobile to achieve orgasm and have a fulfilling sex life. Ergonomically designed toys such as wands, with their extra long handles can help reach where the standard size toys don’t.  We have a variety of male masturbators that can be both hand held and hands free.  We also have a great range of body safe lubricants to enhance our customers pleasure. We believe working with people with a disability, carers and families is a powerful tool for educating others and challenging preconceived notions that people with a disability cannot have an active and healthy sex life. Our staff are passionate about helping customers on the sexual journey. 

We regularly run training sessions for our staff and can confidently say our staff are proud to work in the adult industry. There has always been, and still is, a stigma attached to adult stores.  We are slowly breaking down the barriers and public perception but there is a way to go yet.  At Flirt we would like to show people with a disability, their carers and families that there is someone that will listen and help in what can be a confusing time for everyone. 

You and the team at Flirt are leaders for your industry with your commitment to ensuring accessibility and inclusivity in your stores. Can you share some examples of how you've made your stores welcoming and accommodating for all customers, including those with disabilities? 

For anyone that has never walked into one of our stores, I encourage you to do so.  All our stores are bright & welcoming with knowledgeable staff ready to answer all your questions.

Our products are carefully selected to include the most popular products on the market. We stock a wide variety of gender neutral products, and are a safe space for all LGBTQIA+ customers who are sometimes quite reserved when talking about their sexuality. 

Customers with disabilities can also be intimidated by the thought of being judged or embarrassed to ask questions about sex. Our staff are trained to help customers in all capacities and to know what products can help different customers. 

All Flirt stores are ground level for easy access and all our stores are wheelchair accessible. Flirt participates in many events in our local areas such as Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras where staff and customers have marched in the street parade. Our aim is to attend local disability expos which are held in several of our areas to help promote awareness. We have a diverse range of staff members that are a part of the LGBTQIA+ communities and who have disabilities.

In previous years we have also run a number of Sexual Wellness classes which in my view encouraged people to be more confident within themselves. Flirt sponsors many local football teams and other sporting teams. 

We also offer Personal Shopping Experiences for customers who need that extra one on one service and support.  Many people are uncomfortable or shy to come in during regular opening hours. At Flirt we give customers the chance to come in store before we open to the public so they have time to look around and ask questions without others around. We are also mindful that some customers are sensitive to noises and lights, and we can work with customers, carers and family members to ensure they are as comfortable as possible.  We can also do group bookings.

It's fantastic to hear that your staff are being trained to support clients with disabilities. Can you tell us more about the training process and why it's important for staff to be knowledgeable about supporting customers with diverse needs? 

All staff have completed or in progress of completing NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission e-learning Supporting Effective Communication module.  We have started our journey with Business Inclusion and Diversity Services (BIDS) team which will include some face to face and Zoom training with all staff.  I believe this training is essential for our staff so we can deliver a first class experience for customers with diverse needs. 

Whilst we have always been accessible and accommodating to all customers, we are now focusing on being more aware of customers with disabilities and ensuring staff are sensitive using correct language.  It’s an area that we feel hasn’t been given the attention it should. By encouraging the disability sector to come into our stores and having our staff more aware of the extra needs that might be required, will hopefully encourage more people on their sexual journey.

Offering appointment times for clients with disability is such a thoughtful initiative. Can you walk us through what a typical appointment looks like and how your staff assist clients in finding the best products for their needs?

We have developed a simple questionnaire about the customer which helps our staff ensure they have the correct products to show customers. This questionnaire also includes a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to make their experience personalised. Staff members need to be aware of what type of disabilities so they have the right products to show the customer.

They will have the full attention of the staff member in a one on one situation where staff will show them suitable products, how to use them, how to clean them, what other products work well with certain toys, answer any questions. Staff members can also prepare quotes for the customers if needed. 

We have set aside 1 hour for the personalised shopping experiences.  We want our customers to feel comfortable and relaxed in our stores. Our staff members are knowledgeable and ready to help. If customers require further information about any of our products, our staff can also provide this.  At Flirt we can also do group bookings where staff can present some popular options and information and customers have time to browse and ask questions after the presentation.

Flirt Adult Stores are looking to promote pleasure and sexual expression for people with disabilities, challenging past prejudices. Why do you believe it's essential to break down barriers and promote sexual health and pleasure for everyone, regardless of ability? 

Too many people look at someone and assume they don’t have any needs or desires because they may look ‘different’.  Assume because someone is in a wheelchair that they can’t experience an orgasm. Working in the adult industry we face so many prejudices by simply saying ‘adult store’ as there are still so many misconceptions and so much stigma attached. Everyone has the right to access information, related to sexual products, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. It is essential to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities to make informed decisions about their sexual health and well-being as everyone else.

Promoting sexual health and pleasure for people with disabilities can help to reduce stigma and discrimination. People with disabilities are often marginalised and excluded from conversations about sexuality, which can lead to feelings of shame, isolation, and low self-esteem. By promoting a more inclusive and positive approach to sexual health and pleasure, we can help to challenge negative stereotypes and promote a more accepting and respectful society.

Promoting sexual health and pleasure for people with disabilities can have a positive impact on their overall health and well-being. Sexual activity has been linked to numerous physical and mental health benefits, including reducing stress, improving mood, and boosting the immune system. By providing people with disabilities with the resources and support they need to engage in safe and fulfilling sexual experiences, we can help to improve their quality of life and promote their overall well-being.

How do you ensure that your range of products is inclusive and caters to a diverse range of needs and preferences?

Flirt has a great relationship with our suppliers and manufacturers who provide the latest technology in products that are designed for all body shapes.  We work with our suppliers to ensure all staff have online training on new products in store. Our staff are aware of new product trends and working with suppliers to stock a range of products. Our business is knowing what people like and what products work for different people. By offering a large range of products we can always find a product to suit every person. Many of our products can be used several ways depending on the needs of the customer.

In what ways do you see the landscape of sexual wellness and pleasure products evolving in the future, particularly in terms of accessibility and inclusivity?

  • There's likely to be an increase in the variety of products available, catering to a broader range of preferences, orientations, and needs.
  • Advances in technology has lead to more sophisticated pleasure products, such as those incorporating virtual reality, hands free, or customisable settings. These innovations can enhance accessibility by providing more options for people with different preferences or physical abilities.
  • There's a growing recognition of the importance of sexual education and empowerment. Companies may invest more in providing educational resources alongside their products, helping users make informed choices and explore their sexuality safely. Flirt is proud to be the pioneers in our industry to specifically work with disability agencies to provide this.
  • Brands are likely to continue moving towards more inclusive marketing strategies, featuring a diverse range of models and representing various body types, races, genders, and sexual orientations. This can help create a more welcoming environment for individuals who may have felt excluded or marginalized in the past. Flirt has a great relationship with our suppliers and manufacturers and this is an area we are keen to explore.
  • There's potential for greater integration between sexual wellness products and healthcare services. This could involve collaborations between manufacturers and healthcare providers to ensure that products meet medical standards and are recommended as part of sexual health treatments or therapies. I still think this is a while away but Flirt would love to be a part of closing the gap between different organisations.

Finally, what advice would you give to other retailers/businesses looking to promote inclusivity and accessibility in their industry, particularly in the realm of sexual wellness?

  1. Understand the diverse needs and experiences of your customers. Educate yourself and your staff about different identities, orientations, and needs within the realm of sexual wellness. There are so many great courses online for staff.
  2. Ensure your product range caters to a wide range of identities, orientations, and preferences. This includes products designed for different body types, abilities, genders, and sexual preferences.  Ensure your staff are aware of the difference in the products you sell.
  3. Make your store or online platform a safe and welcoming space for everyone. This can include inclusive language in marketing materials, diverse imagery, and clear policies against discrimination.  Engage with companies such as the BIDS team who can guide you to make a more inclusive space. Train your staff to be sensitive to the needs of all customers. Provide education on disabilities, and other relevant topics to ensure they can provide respectful and knowledgeable assistance to all customers.
  4. Make sure your physical store, website, and products are accessible to people with disabilities. This may include wheelchair accessibility, braille signage, screen reader compatibility, and adjustable product designs. Engage in a third party company who specialize in this area.
  5. Build relationships with LGBTQ+ organizations, disability advocacy groups, and other community organizations working on sexual wellness and inclusivity. Collaborate on events, promotions, and initiatives to reach a broader audience.
  6. Actively seek feedback from your customers, especially those from marginalized communities. Listen to their experiences and suggestions for improvement, and use this information to continuously evolve and improve your offerings.
  7. Use your platform to advocate for inclusivity and accessibility within the broader industry. This could involve supporting policy changes, participating in awareness campaigns, or speaking out against discrimination and stigma.
  8. Authenticity is key. Avoid tokenism and superficial gestures. Instead, genuinely integrate inclusivity and accessibility into your brand values, policies, and practices.
  9. Celebrate diversity in all its forms. Highlight stories and experiences from diverse communities, feature diverse models in your marketing materials, and actively work to amplify marginalized voices within the industry.

Businesses can not only promote inclusivity and accessibility in the realm of sexual wellness but also build stronger connections with a wider range of customers and contribute to positive social change.

Check out the incredible range of products in-store or online at:

https://flirtadultstore.com.au/

Article by

Kate Maslen

Director & Co-Founder Ariel Community

Related articles

Blog
Ariel Ally: Super-Rory
In a world where hope can sometimes feel elusive, there are extraordinary individuals who shine brightly, spreading positivity and inspiration wherever they go. One such beacon of light is Rory Piper, better known by his alter ego, Super-Rory.
24/6/24
-
4 min
Blog
Case Study: Inclusive Fitness & Gyms with Tactix Training
In our interview with Sean, Owner and Director of Tactix Training, he discusses how Tactix was founded to offer an inclusive and supportive environment for individuals with disabilities, emphasising the importance of community and personalised training to make fitness accessible to all.
22/6/24
-
2 min
Blog
Case Study: Retail, Adult Stores & Disability Inclusion
We speak with Jules Pearce from Flirt Adult Stores to unpack how they are putting inclusion at the centre of their business model.
24/4/24
-
7 min