Crossing Over: U.K.-Based Creative Conceptions Expands Into the U.S.
Creative Conceptions nestles in the middle of the U.K. in a town called Newark. An unassuming building in the heart of an industrial estate displays an understated sign informing visitors that they have reached a company that was established more than two decades ago and supplies a diverse range of products to retailers across the U.K. and Europe. More than 20 staff occupy the office and warehousing facility that supplies everything from adult games to condoms.
To find out how this company has grown from a single idea in 1993 to a multi-national distributor there is no better place to start than the couple behind it, Jane and Richie Bowles. Initially conceived as a supplier of attractive, quality maternity wear during one of Jane’s pregnancies, the couple and therefore the nascent company showed itself to be adept at identifying diverse and slightly naughtier product lines. It started with a relaxed evening in Ripon, North Yorkshire where the pair conceived a range of risqué socks as a fun addition to Creative Conceptions’ more conventional maternity wear. Soon after they alighted on their first game “Foreplay,” which they found languishing in a shipping container. While acknowledging this game’s shortcomings the couple recognized the potential for a quality adult board game as these 4,500 units flew off the shelves.
That is how Monogamy, Creative Conception’s first in-house and consistently best-selling product came into being. Jane Bowles had taken the decision to change her lifestyle, leaving her role as a recruitment executive, while Richie seized an opportunity to move from his high-powered job with pharmaceutical conglomerate GalxoSmithKline and join her in creating the seminal game of passion and fun.
Monogamy has a wide appeal with its tiered “Intimate,” “Passionate” and “Steamy” game cards and while developed primarily in-house Creative Conceptions used a consultant with experience at toy giant Hasbro to help refine and market the game. This willingness to seek criticism, listen to feedback and embrace the changes required to create a successful product pervade the company’s ethos. “There is no point in asking for someone’s opinion then disregarding what they tell you.” Richie told us. “We have a unique focus group, our village. The feedback they give us is hugely valuable, honest and constructive.” The success of Monogamy and other products speaks volumes for the effectiveness of this approach and the broad mindedness of the locals who have attributed at least two pregnancies directly to playing the companies games.
But Creative Conceptions is not a one trick pony, their product range in the U.K. includes the distribution of ID lubricants and the Screaming O range of products, brands instantly recognizable because of the effort and commitment Creative invests in each of the brands on its shelves. Jane Bowles explained the thinking behind the resources, including an in-house marketing and graphic design team committed to promoting the lines they distribute. “For the most part we stock products for which we are the exclusive distributor. This allows us to promote brands and support retailers in the media and at point of sale knowing that the effort we put in will be converted to sales for us and our customers.”
One product which fills rack after rack of warehouse space are Skins Condoms that Creative distribute across Europe as far as Russia and Turkey. To buffer against long lead times for Skins necessitated by a rigorous testing regimen the company always has five or six months of stock on hand.
A visit to the Creative Conceptions warehouse and loading dock confirms two things — first that their commitment to ensuring that every SKU in their catalog is ready for dispatch to its customers is not a hollow promise. A quick scan of its inventory and conversation with the Creative Conceptions team proves that even lines with extended lead times are always on hand. Furthermore despite the volume of product being shipped, a calm efficiency pervaded the whole building while we were there emphasising the company’s practiced professionalism.
Creative Conceptions is now looking forward to reproducing their success in Europe across the Atlantic. Customers in North America are now being offered the Creative Conceptions products and after 18 months Richie is bullish about their progress. “We’re attending the ILS and ANME shows this year to raise awareness of our select range of products to North American buyers,” he said. “We have a select range of products and have a network of full-line distributors. This ensures that if a retailer approaches for a distributor we can offer them a single source for all our products. What’s more, we actively identify slow moving lines and discontinue them. It’s in nobody’s interest, retailers, distributors or Creative Conceptions to carry lines that don’t sell.”
Joining Richie at U.S. shows this year will be Rachel Phillips, Creative Conception’s senior sales executive. She brings 14 years of sales experience to the company and its clients, since 2011 she has been an enthusiastic ambassador for the organization’s product range. “North America excites me because the people in the industry are open and willing to embrace new games and novelties … they see what we offer as something different,” she said. “The feedback I get is that customers appreciate our standards in terms of product quality and customer service. Representing Creative Conceptions at the North American shows allows us to build relationships and increase awareness of our lines so we can fulfil our dreams [in the market, it is] challenging and exciting [and] I have built some incredible relationships [both] business and personal.”
Rachel tantalized us with some hints at what Creative’s customers can expect from this enthusiastic team over the next 12 months. “The Blow Job Kit has literally blown people away we can’t get this out quick enough — watch this space for further kits. The Stick A Sick Stud was requested over the last few shows so we listened to our customers and The Stud is here.”
The company has already built an impressive and growing dealer network in the U.S. comprising 12 distributors supplying SMEs as well as Creative themselves dealing directly with larger concerns like Spencer Gifts directly. “We are introducing a number of titles under $20 to allow buyers the chance to experience different types of adult game at a very affordable price.”
Creative Conceptions are aggressively developing their brands by supporting U.S. distributors and thereby increasing brand and product awareness within the adult industry. Expect to see more products in a wider range of stores from adult to mainstream retailers in the coming months.
Customers can see the entire range of products available in the North American market at CreativeConceptions.com.