Sainsbury’s might have dropped its “try something new today” slogan back in 2011 but it’s still keen for customers to pop something novel in their trolley with this week’s announcement that it is launching a range of sex toys.
They might not seem like natural bedfellows – a pint of milk and a vibrator – but the supermarket says by stocking the shelves with female toys, it’s hoping to hit the spot for shoppers who are dissatisfied with their sex lives.
And the products, which will be available to buy from today in 486 Sainsbury’s stores across the UK, won’t double the cost of your weekly shop either, with prices ranging from a very-affordable £8 to £15.
Historically, the shop has only sold Durex lubricants, massage oils and vibration rings (for men), but this new range will offer a choice of three own-brand vibrators: the Rose Gold Bullet, Rose Blush Bullet and the Aura Silver Vibrator and Massager.
Sainsbury’s say the decision was not made as a result of consumer demand but after the brand discovered in its Living Well Index that one in three of its customers was not satisfied with their bedroom behaviour.
Paul Mills-Hicks, food commercial director at Sainsbury’s, said: “By introducing a new range at affordable prices, we hope to give customers the option to buy quickly and conveniently in an environment they feel comfortable with.”
In other words, the supermarket hopes that by giving its customers options to reinvigorate their sex life, it will make them happier at home (and therefore more likely to keep coming back to Sainsbury’s).
Despite it making good business sense to keep customers satisfied, experts say the move also marks a shift in attitudes towards female pleasure in Britain.
Sex expert, Tracey Cox, tells HuffPost UK: “This is definitely a sign that sex toys have well and truly become mainstream and acceptable. I’ve had two ranges of sex toys for more than a decade now and have seen an extraordinary shift over this period. Before, they were something people used but didn’t talk about.”
Cox says sex toys are now seen more widely as a “normal” part of a person or couple’s sex life, and people are more willing to admit owning them.
Like Cox, Lucy Beresford, broadcaster and psychotherapist, also “loves” that Sainsbury’s is letting us slide a vibrator into our basket along with our avocados and ice-cream, and says it is helping to demystify sex and smash stigma.
Beresford says: “It’s smashing the stigma that sex toys are strange, or the preserve of people with problems. Sex toys allow you to take your sex life seriously. They can give you more confidence, spice up a jaded sex life or give you a helping hand when you’re single.
“Above all, they’re fun – and sex is meant to be fun. Buying a sex toy is about treating yourself - and stores just made that easier,” she adds.
Dating expert Annabelle Knight, says sex toys are also helping to bridge the orgasm gap between men and women. She says: “The more mainstream sex toys become, the more we talk about sex and in turn, masturbation and the importance of pleasure in the bedroom.”
She also says that on a more serious note, it is important for women to become more familiar with their genitals – something which toys help you to do – so they are able to spot any small changes that may need medical attention.
And Sainsbury’s aren’t the only big brand to make the move into what was previously the realm of niche sex shops. Sex columnist Suzi Godson, reminds us that Boots were the first to start this back in 2012.
She says: “They started selling a range of sex toys including the Play Delight, a snip at £9.99, considering it came with a free £10 eye-test voucher and 36 Boots points. By 2016, you could pick up a bullet vibrator with lube gel AND wet wipes for just a quid at Poundland!”
But, unlike the other experts we spoke to, Godson is still unsure if people will buy them. “I already feel paranoid about the invisible health police judging the Chablis in my shopping trolley. Not sure I could cope with being judged for my sexual habits too. Think I’ll stick to online shopping for sexy time.”
Sainsbury’s say it will monitor sales and feedback closely in the next six months, with the ambition to add more products to the range in early 2019.
For now, it feels like a move in the right direction for female pleasure.