INTERVIEW: Peter Cooke, Fetters

Warwick doesn’t only have a famous castle worth visiting. Renowned BDSM and bondage retailer Fetters entices customers from far and wide to see for themselves the wares on offer.

Taking time to speak to Lascivious Marketing is their Marketing Director, Peter Cooke. Here he highlights marketing segmentation and targeting among their diverse customer base, and more.

BRIAN GRAY:  So let’s get started. Who are Fetters and what are your #sexySME credentials?

PETER COOKE: Fetters is a manufacturer and retailer of BDSM furniture, restraints and fetish accessories. We make many items below our showroom in Warwick but we also retail popular kink brands through our showroom and online.

The business was started in 1976 and in 2015 fetish brand REGULATION purchased the business to bring more bondage focused products into the family. Fetters has changed a lot since the 70s. It’s gradually moved from selling mostly gay S&M products to a more pansexual customer base.

Looking at your website, you offer a wide range of different products in key groups. Which are the most popular items? Have there been any changes in purchasing patterns or new trends that you’re witnessing?
Our most popular products tend to be the smaller bondage accessories, so leather collars, cuffs and mitts. They really are great essentials that everyone starts with. Over the last two years we’ve introduced more dildos, usually at the more premium end such as Square Peg Toys from the USA. These have been extremely popular which was a little unexpected.

Overall, we’re seeing greater interest in products that can help make a great BDSM session; canes, gags, toys etc. People are increasingly ordering products for their weekend plans and we’re realising it’s important to make more of these available to ship quickly and easily.

You’ve got a showroom in Warwick. How would you describe the people who walk in the door? Also, are they curious browsers or do they tend to be quite specific about what they’re coming in for?
We have quite a broad range of customers. Many couples come in together, especially younger couples. Some have experience on the “scene” but many are just curious individuals who are looking for tools to act out a fantasy or indulge in a desire they’ve discovered online. Our showroom is one of the best places to see and sample our furniture so some do travel from greater distances, even outside Europe, to visit us.

What defines your typical Fetters customer, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
I couldn’t even start to define a typical Fetters customer. Some are discreet, others loud and proud. Some comfortable curious while others are highly experienced and heavily involved in the BDSM community. There’s everything in between. Whatever their story, I’d like our customers to see us as Deviant, Exciting and Genuine.

A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?

Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
We’re still very much on a journey with our marketing approach but we’ve definitely learnt not to overreach with our target market. Many of our products can appeal to both gay and straight customers but these scenes rarely mix and images or copy written for one group won’t be well received by both.

We decided to continue with a more pansexual approach but we’ve learnt to also be aware of what is resonating with customers who have a personal identity preference such as submissive females or switch couples etc. It’s quite a tall order but we’re trying hard to create a brand that speaks broadly to many BDSM individuals.

It’s not hard to imagine – at least in the past – that some locals (such as the NIMBY – “Not in my back yard” – brigade) might be concerned or even outraged about your showroom and types of wares being sold. To what extent – if any – does this affect day-to-day operations?
We try and keep a relatively low profile with our showroom, especially with the exterior. Our interior is designed to be warm and welcoming even though some of our pieces might seem less friendly. Customers appreciate this and our neighbours are either content or less aware. We’re also careful to ensure we don’t seem too seedy or sleazy. We’ll leave that to our customers once they’re home!

Ultimately though, we do have a certain level of pride in hoping our business can enrich the sex lives of people in a positive way. We would do our best to defend that freedom but thankfully we’ve not encountered many issues along the way.

As well as actual and prospective customers, bricks and mortar adult retailers have to engage with other audiences such as the local council, licensing authorities, media and so on. What has been your experience of this, and what do you see as being the key to maintaining good relations with such groups?
Openness and transparency are important. We don’t want to seem underground and obscure. On the other hand, we have to consider customer privacy very carefully. We regularly get press requests for interviews, tours or journalists asking to be connected with customers for editorials. There are benefits to bringing kink, fetishes and adult products out into the mainstream, but my experience is that the reception of this kind of coverage is often not positive, especially online. We choose very carefully and always favour adult or fetish media if we can.

Honestly speaking, we’re not selling our products to the mainstream. There are other, very good retailers for this. We’re serving a sizable niche market. We keep this in mind when contacted by more mainstream media.

What has been your most enjoyable moment or experience with Fetters that has made the blood, sweat and tears all worthwhile?
There’s not a specific moment but when I look at how far our showroom and website have come over the past two years I’m happy what we’re moving in the right direction.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given, and from who?
It’s not a piece of advice but I have a favourite quote, “If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters.”
[it’s a favourite of mine too! You only need one to work.  Brian]

Time is our most precious commodity, especially for entrepreneurs. How do you maximise yours, and what tips have you picked up along the way?
I work with some great people so I’ve been fortunate that we’re able to share our workload on a lot of projects. It’s also easy to get carried away with the day-to-day but I try to just stop and reflect at the beginning of a week. This helps me plan and be more efficient with time.

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Fetters?
We’ve got a couple of exciting photoshoots planned and hopefully the introduction of some video content to really increase customer knowledge of our more unusual products. We’re also holding a number of showroom shopping events which have become popular and provide the perfect excuse for those outside of the Midlands to visit.

Thanks Pete! And it’s refreshing to see an adult retailer that can testify that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ and markets their products and services accordingly. Different buyer personas are vital, thus requiring targeted marketing communications for each identified segment. This genuine customer-led marketing approach is to be commended and should be adopted across the industry by all manufacturers and retailers.

If you want to take a closer look at the many wares on offer, then head to the Fetters website. You can also follow Fetters on Twitter too.

If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrepreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!