Can an Adult Franchise be Tasteful?
Mix a recession, a marriage and a war in Iraq with an entrepreneurial mindset. Pour in a third of a bottle of glow- in-the-dark bubble bath and a splash of Latter Day Saints. Stir. Cool. Sprinkle sweet honeysuckle honeydust onto prime Utah real estate. Cover with Kama Sutra chocolate body paint. Garnish with a Shunga Massage aphrodisiac candle and a purple-corset-clad mannequin torso and enjoy.
Around the same time "Husband and Wife" franchise founders Chris and Jackie Hobson launched their first shop using the above ingredients, the American Fork, UT City Council launched a new regulation against the sale of sexually explicit merchandise. Fortunately for the Hobsons, their employees and their customers, the regulation applied to items the franchise wasn't carrying in the first place.
The brand of adult shop that the newlywed couple launched after returning from a year-long tour of duty in Iraq was inspired by what made them uncomfortable about other adult shops.
"If it has batteries then we don't carry it," said Jackie Hobson at the Colorado Franchise and Business Opportunities Expo when asked to differentiate between the classy merchandise they carry and promote, and the trashy merchandise they do not.
"Our customers appreciate shopping for lingerie and romantic gifts without being exposed to graphic images, swearing or slang terms," explains the "Husband & Wife: Celebrate Your Marriage" pamphlet the Hobsons distributed to prospective franchise investors.
Currently there are no Husband and Wife franchises outside of Utah. The Hobsons, however, are pushing to change that. The Colorado Expo was the first of a series of southwest and northwest presentations and meetings they have set up over the next few months.
The franchise section of their website even parses the available territories in Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico, Idaho and Colorado according to zipcode on interactive maps listing relevant target margin demographic reports. Married women between the ages of 20 and 40 are the brand’s biggest patrons, and a lot of their online customers reside in Bible-belt states.
This raises an obvious question: will this be a challenge as the brand expands into more secular regions?
Hobson trains his employees and his franchisees’ employees to separate their personal beliefs from the mission of Husband and Wife, which is to strengthen relationships. “If a guy comes in wanting to buy a corset, help him find a corset that he’s comfortable in,” declares Hobson, who is now in dialogue with gay investors who are interested in opening franchises in neighboring states.
“The main issue that comes across the tables is marriage,” says Chris Hobson, whose personal beliefs "support marriage between a man and a woman 100%." Hobson acknowledges that his “personal beliefs don't prevent anyone from shopping at Husband and Wife,” and he adds, “if someone else believes something else is the proper way to do things, I most certainly have to be open.”
As a journalist, Susanna Speier has published over 100 articles for print and online publications. She holds a BA from Hampshire College, an MFA from Brooklyn College, C.U.N.Y. and a post graduate screenwriting certificate from Boston University. You can follow Susanna on Twitter at @SusannaSpeier or visit her on her website http://www.susannaspeier.com
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