conclusion
GROW OR DIE?
To some extent, we are the victims of our success.
former gooD vIBrAtIoNS Ceo tHereSA SpArkS
in “Competition Has Shaken Good Vibrations”
The news was spreading like wildfire, and my e- mail inbox was filled with mes-
sages from feminist retailers from around the country expressing shock and
disbelief. Good Vibrations, the legendary San Francisco sex- toy emporium
that had inspired so many of them, had been sold—the result of a financial
crisis so severe that the company was on the brink of filing for bankruptcy or,
worse, shutting its doors, because it had no money to pay vendors and restock
shelves. As one feminist retailer told me, “I feel like a parent just died.”
And it was not simply the fact that Good Vibrations had been sold that
stunned so many fellow retailers and longtime customers, but the news of who
had purchased it: General Video of America and Trans- World News (gvA-
twN), a Cleveland- based wholesaler and distributor of adult merchandise
that had been around since the late 1950s. The company was better known
for selling blow- up dolls and catering to the “trench coat crowd” than provid-
ing accurate information and quality sex toys to urban queers and suburban
soccer moms. To many observers, it was exactly the kind of mainstream adult
company that Good Vibrations had worked so hard to distinguish itself from
since launching thirty years earlier as a quirky, educationally focused, and
women- friendly vibrator shop. Had Good Vibrations sold out and “gone over
to the dark side,” as one person put it, or had it made a smart business decision
in a rapidly changing marketplace? What had happened?
Good Vibrations, like other sex- toy retailers, had weathered financially
tough times in the past, but in 2007, when the business was sold, things were
different. Internet sales, which just years before had been robust, had dropped
precipitously—the result, many within the company argued, of Google chang-
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