Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing in-depth profiles of this year’s Top 10, including this year’s #3, Lovehoney Australasian director, Rob Godwin. Passionate about transforming the tired stereotypes around the adult retail industry, Godwin is on a mission to change the sector by focusing on sexual wellness and its impact on mental health.
Godwin is also a champion for supporting the disability community and has driven initiatives to increase their employment within Lovehoney and the broader retail industry. Here, he chats about the work he’s doing in that space, the challenges he’s come up against as well as the opportunities for all retail leaders to use their platform for good.
Inside Retail: Mental health is really important to you at Lovehoney. What are you doing in that space?
Rob Godwin: Before Covid kicked off, we’d always done things with our staff like counselling, gym memberships, and personal training sessions. When we did the 2019-20 Sexual Happiness Report, 25 per cent of respondents said having a good sex life helped improve their mental health. That’s from a customer perspective, and also from a staff perspective, but over the last few years, we’ve tried to bring those worlds together.
Last year, we worked with TradeMutt, a workwear brand with purpose, and they have a charity called This is a Conversation Starter (TIACS). It’s a great company for us to work with that supports positive communication about mental health in the workplace. On all their shirts, it says, ‘This is a conversation starter.’ We gave everyone new TradeMutt uniforms to encourage everyone to talk about mental health. Nothing is more important than the wellbeing of our staff – not business growth, not increasing numbers, none of that. It really is a fundamental part of business today.
We also did our own research with Trademutt. We surveyed 1500-2000 people and 90 per cent said sex and masturbation are good for mental health and eight in 10 said that regular sex improves mental health. It was Trademutt’s biggest ever survey response, it just shows you what can happen when you bring together two great companies like Trademutt and Lovehoney.
When it comes to having that conversation about sex with tradies, [we’re] breaking down those taboos and opening up a very male-dominated industry, so they know it’s okay to talk.
IR: Lovehoney aims to employ people with disabilities across at least 25 per cent of its workforce. How is that going?
RG: The journey of being an employer of equality for people who are able bodied or disabled is a hard one. You might have the desire, drive, and determination to make that happen, but unfortunately, the government and industry are not set up to assist you.
When we had our last peak season, over the Cyber weekend, we wanted to recruit 25 staff. But we weren’t allowed to do that through the government agencies; they won’t allow people with disabilities to work at Lovehoney because it is in the “sex industry”. But we don’t have sex on premise. We ship boxes, we put a box in another box, and we ship it via Australia Post around the world. The government is telling me that they’re deciding [on behalf of people with disabilities] that they can’t work for me. I mean, how discriminatory is that? I absolutely, absolutely do not accept it.
So this year, we’re going to set up our own recruitment. We’ll recruit directly from the
the disability community and soon we’ll announce that we’re working with other big, well-known companies to map this out. I’m going to champion change and make this happen.
My most proud moments at work are not winning awards. One of my most special moments was when one of our disability staff got his first full time job ever. The smile he had on his face, the positivity he brings to work every day, that’s worth 1000 awards, it really is.
IR: Most recently, Lovehoney worked with Queensland Australian of the Year Dr Dinesh Palipana to launch a website called LifeRAT, which helps people with disabilities gain access to RAT tests. Can you tell me about how Lovehoney is supporting that initiative?
RG: Lovehoney is providing financial assistance in donations and also our expertise in logistics, warehousing, and staffing through providing employment for people with disabilities. Lovehoney is warehousing and picking-and-packing the orders at no cost to the consumer, whilst employing people with disabilities to fulfil the orders. We are very proud to be an inclusive employer and assist with this great initiative. This is the right thing to do, at the right time.
IR: What are some of the ways that other retailers could help support LifeRAT and people with disabilities?
RG: LifeRAT initiative shows leading businesses and individuals coming together in fixing a community problem. Retailers can help with donations in cash, donation of RATs, but it also illustrates the opportunities for inclusion. I would strongly recommend all retailers reaching out to the disability community and seeing where they can actively encourage employment. This was provide the opportunity for people with disabilities to live an active and inclusive life, working as an equal, alongside able bodied staff
IR: You’re a big proponent of collaborating with other e-commerce retailers. Can you share a few recent examples?
RG: As a business leader, it’s so important to share your knowledge. That’s why we do so many podcasts, interviews, and retail shows. We’ve visited Culture Kings, Flora & Fauna, Super Retail Group, Beginning Boutique, and many, many others – and they’ve come to us. I’ve had the head of Super Retail Group here, learning how to do B2C. How cool is that? These mega billion-dollar brands have come to see Lovehoney, to see why our customer service is number one, why we have 300,000 reviews and why we rate 4.7 on Trustpilot.
I’m honoured to call Julie [Mathers] from Flora & Fauna a friend and [her business] is very much a mirror image of what we do. From that shared love and commitment, they now range our eco-friendly vibrators called Love Not War and they’re selling like hotcakes. We can’t keep enough stock in place for them! It’s a privilege to work with Flora & Fauna. They are iconic and they set the standard [for sustainability in retail]. I hope that Lovehoney does the same for sexual happiness, where we can bring it into the mainstream; because if everyone had a good orgasm most days, I think the world would be a better place.