Sin City Shops: Selling Toys in a Tourist Town

This article originally ran in the May 2017 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the digital edition.

Las Vegas—the city that gets us excited, the city that’s the home to more than 2 million locals in the area, the city that attracts more than 40 million tourists a year, the city where you can’t wait to visit to throw some cash down on the multitudes of gaming options and also pick up a sex toy or two without having your neighbors at home know what you’re buying.

But what’s it like to actually have a sex-oriented business in Sin City? Not only is our industry represented with various retail stores but there are also many manufacturers that call Las Vegas home.

Lynn Comella is no stranger to Las Vegas both as a ten-year resident of the city and also as a sex toy specialist, having penned her new book Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure. Comella is an associate professor in the department of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and she had some thoughts on why Las Vegas adult businesses thrive year round.

“Las Vegas is an interesting place when it comes to sex, because, on the one hand, the marketing materials directed at tourists sell Vegas as “Sin City,” a place where people can supposedly cut loose and do things they wouldn’t dare do at home,” Comella said.

“And yet, at the same time, Vegas can be surprisingly sexually conservative,” she added. “In fact, there are examples of tourists being arrested because they mistakenly thought ‘anything goes’ in Vegas and instances when locals have caused a fuss about an artist’s mural that showed breasts.”

Tourists often patronize the retail stores in the area, but perhaps more in the shadows are the manufacturers that thrive in the area. Bob Wolf, owner of Synergy Erotics—currently offering more than 100 different vibrators—is one of those manufacturers. He moved the business from San Francisco in 2012 to get away from the astronomical rents, taxation, and the “overall poor business environment California engenders.”

He explained, “With the crash of 2008, we knew we had to make some drastic changes and moving to LV was just a part of those changes. Luckily my wife and I had planned to relocate to LV regardless but the economy gave us the nudge we needed.”

Aside from the economic advantages of moving to Las Vegas back in 2012, Wolf is often asked whether being located in Sin City benefits his company. “People have this image of Vegas that, in all honesty, has little or nothing to do with our business, but if that image/reputation enhances our brand, I’m happy to allow people to believe so!”

Relocating to Las Vegas has helped his business both directly and indirectly, including its impact on his long-term employees. Wolf admitted, “For instance, the cost of living here in LV is so far below California, so imagine your employees finally being able to afford their first home or move to a larger home if their needs call for it.”

But it goes further than just staffing. Being in Las Vegas and close to the prolific industry trade shows that take place there, Wolf saves money by not having to ship his show displays and inventory. Also, the McCarran International Airport is less than thirty minutes away for the vast majority of Las Vegas inhabitants, so flying to trade shows in other locales is easy and efficient for him.

And despite being further inland, shipping costs haven’t been a problem. “As odd as it sounds, the cost to have our freight shipped from Long Beach to Las Vegas is only nominally more expensive than shipping from Oakland to South San Francisco, and any increased freight costs are easily offset by the significantly lower cost of warehouse space.” Overall, Wolf has no regrets about relocating to Sin City.

Regarding the variety of adult retail stores in Las Vegas, Comella said, “I think the geography of sex shops in Vegas is really interesting. There are, for example, a handful of old-school sex shops with video booths and glory holes that still exist and that haven’t been zoned out of existence” (such as Showgirls Video on Las Vegas Boulevard, which has been immortalized by the late Bill Margold’s collection of cement hand, boob, butt and shoe prints from many famous, old-school porn stars displayed on the wall of the shabby yet endearing store). “There are also a number of sex shops that have really worked to redefine themselves over the past few years as the women’s market for sex toys and pornography has grown. Those stores have been repainted and made them lighter and brighter, hired women to work on the sales floor, and started carrying higher quality products. It’s been a really interesting and noticeable shift.”

Some prime examples of this shift are the Love Store (a three-store chain), and couples-friendly branches of the national chains Lion’s Den and Hustler. Comella appreciates that Las Vegas offers a wide variety of sex shops that cater to different kinds of customers, all within several miles of each other. 

Megan Swartz, buyer and manager of the two Déjà Vu stores in Las Vegas, revealed that, surprisingly, the Déjà Vu stores cater to a majority of locals—70 percent local and 30 percent tourists—but sales are 50/50 between the two customer bases. Both stores offer the additional grown-up temptations of arcades, theaters, and an adjacent strip club next to the Industrial Boulevard location.

As an adult retail business that caters to tourists, Swartz commented, “Déjà Vu is well known by the casino doors (bell/valet/concierge) for our clubs and boutiques. We are also well known by the cab and limo companies. Typically when you are traveling, those would be the people you would ask for recommendations.”

Tourists shop at Déjà Vu for the best of the best, and Swartz noted that those customers are usually married couples or couples in long-term relationships. “They either do not have ‘shops like these’ where they are from or are embarrassed to visit adult stores because they are from a small town where everyone knows everyone. Either way, that is usually the customer that will load up on suggested items.”

But it doesn’t stop with those customers. Bachelorette and bachelor groups often visit Déjà Vu for party favors and pole classes. And many other shoppers are looking to buy some items for their weekend getaway to throw out before returning home to a significant other. Yes, many rely on the motto “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

Sticking to Las Vegas’ well-deserved nickname of “Sin City,” the community is often a hot spot for swingers and escorts having a good time in the city. Swartz shared, “Of course, we get swingers in! They are no stranger to having a little fun in the bedroom and we welcome them. We get a lot of entertainers because we are right in the heart of the gentlemen’s clubs and we have the best selection in town.

“We definitely get escorts and they are the BEST kind of customer. They get a thrill out of being catered to and having money spent on them frivolously!” she exclaimed. “Honestly, most of the men get an equal thrill out of dropping the black card for their purchase for them. So it is great for us! Takes very little effort to run up thousands on a tab and they always leave happy.”

Swartz concluded, “At Déjà Vu, we are in the business of people-pleasing one dildo or lap dance at a time.”

The local Adam & Eve store is another adult retail business that finds success even though it’s located well off the tourist area. Antrece, the owner of the Las Vegas franchise, shared her thoughts on her customer base. 

Ten miles off the Las Vegas Strip on North Decatur, Antrece said, “The majority of our clientele are locals. However, we do get plenty of tourists.”

But how do tourists find her store? “While our billboards are extremely effective, our website ( also draws in a lot of tourists,” Antrece said. “Some customers have Adam and Eve stores in their hometown and often seek us out for a visit.” And keeping in touch with these tourists coming back is important for her and her company.

Antrece mentioned, “We provide our tourists with the same amazing service as our locals. Although we take pride in building rapport with all of customers whether or not they are local, we are not always aware of our clients’ personal information. At the register, we encourage all of our clients to sign up for our rewards program that entitles them to special discounts, notifications of upcoming promotions, and free gifts.”

Antrece pointed out, “International tourists seem to appreciate our high-end products (LELO, Jimmyjane, We-Vibe) as they are much more expensive overseas. All of our customers, regardless of where they may be from, visit us with the intent to try something new.” 

And this is, of course, why adult retail stores will thrive in Sin City—and, for that matter, anywhere people are bound and determined to have a good time.