Q&A: Nick Orlandino Reflects on ANME’s 20-Year History
This year ANME celebrates 20 years of being the must-attend B2B event for manufacturers and buyers. A hotbed of innovation and new product debuts, ANME, which is held biannually, brings together up to 100 exhibitors with more than 1,500 attendees at each show. Founded by Pipedream Products, CalExotics, Doc Johnson, Topco Sales and Nasstoys, ANME was established when the sex toy industry was in its infancy and has evolved along with the marketplace. In the beginning, DVD companies overran adult retail — and thus ANME was born to give the five founding companies a venue to connect with buyers. The founders eventually opened up their expo to other vendors with the only rule being that they are based in the U.S. As Chinese manufacturers continue to infiltrate the pleasure products industry, ANME now more than ever has to protect its brand. Founder Nick Orlandino says 2016 will be a defining year for the industry, where the brands that are here to stay will come out on top.
In this exclusive interview with Orlandino, he discusses the history and evolution of ANME and where the industry is headed.
XBIZ: Discuss ANME’s history. When was it created? Why?
Nick Orlandino: We were the stepchild of the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and VSDA (Video Software Dealers Association) shows. We would kind of go there with our duffle bags and sell — the old school style. We did the CES a little bit, but the adult guys drowned us out. The video guys were massive and we were tiny.
Finally, I was at the ASD/AMD show (Associated Surplus Dealer & Associated Merchandise Dealers), which was a different kind of show. I was doing the show circuit by myself back then, nobody else really was, I was the only novelty guy doing it. I went to Susan from Cal, and I said, “Listen, I think we need our own show. Let’s just do a small ballroom or something.” Then I got in touch with Jane from Topco and Mary from Doc Johnson, and we had a cup of coffee up there and looked at some conference rooms to host our lunch and event … and then we tried it!
We had the five companies (Pipedream, CalExotics, Doc Johnson, Topco and Nasswalk) do it. Nobody had displays except for one old display that I had, so we kind of chopped it up so everybody could use it. We had about 100 buyers come in, five vendors. We did our thing, and that was how it got started.
XBIZ: How hardcore were sex toys when ANME was first established?
Orlandino: We were a gag gift company, DJ had their rubber products, Topco was doing their cosmetics mostly — we all had our niches. Susan had some plastic stuff; Nasswalk had their stuff — Spanish Fly and things like that. Going back a long, long time, it was all just pretty low-brow. If you go back through our old catalogs, you can definitely see the difference in the products, to say the least.
We got a lot of grief from many of the small guys who wanted to join the show. So we opened it up, we made it for American companies only. When I started building a charter for this whole thing, an old friend of mine, Jeff Aaron, came in to run the thing for me. I started a company called Kammo, we set up a charter, we had a list of rules — one was that you had to be an American company.
XBIZ: How has the market changed in 20 years?
Orlandino: Chinese companies are all over the place like ants, the ankle biters, the “me-toos” and all these other companies. It’s gotten crazy. But the thing now, in 2016, they’re all going to fall out. Enough’s enough. If you don’t have a solid back catalog, good products, service, financial backing, then you’re done this year. You can’t continue to pound your chest with no money in the bank and that’s going to hurt a lot of these little guys — but that’s my opinion.
XBIZ: Do you have a most memorable moment from past shows?
Orlandino: There are lots and lots of great moments. We had poker tournaments and golf tournaments and karaoke nights and we just grew and grew and grew. It’s pretty impressive.
Now ANME is massive. We’ve got 100 exhibitors, 1,500 buyers from around the world. It’s the premiere show in the business. The most business gets done at that show. It’s helped Pipedream tremendously on so many levels, helped me personally grow as a businessperson on so many levels, and it’s cemented Pipedream and ANME as one of the biggest in the world, which I’m very proud of.
XBIZ: Discuss ANME as a platform for product debuts. Why has it become the place to premiere releases?
Orlandino: We set a schedule pretty much based on the old January/July philosophy. It’s funny; now I’m tinkering with the idea of changing that in the future, try smaller releases, maybe four times a year instead. I think it would just make it easier on everybody — distributors, retailers, my production people, my supply chain. We’ll talk to some other companies as well to get their feedback on it. Maybe do an annex of ANME at different cities, maybe April and October? Something to that effect.
XBIZ: How does attending ANME benefit retailers?
Orlandino: A lot of information, a lot of exposure. The good companies who are growing, they’re there selling service, not just product, they are offering a lot to the retailers. And they need to absorb it, and learn it, and take it, and suck it in. The old days of, “here, take this, buy it, it’ll sell” — that’s not the sales pitch anymore. Now we’re telling you why and how to sell and market these products on a regular basis… and it works! We know it works. We’ve seen our sales rise and we’ve seen the retailers’ sales rise.
XBIZ: Discuss ANME as an event for networking and/or building a sense of community within the pleasure products industry. How does it bring the industry together?
Orlandino: That was part of my concept early on, was having all the dinners and lunches together, to keep everyone together. It’s hard because we’re in Los Angeles, so a lot of the local companies take people out to dinners and hotels and we’ve tried to discourage that. But I do think that building community is important and we try to address it every year, to get people to stay and network. It is important that the industry stays together as a whole — more comes out of it.
XBIZ: What can we expect from ANME in the future?
Orlandino: We’re still looking for another venue that meets our needs. We’re always looking for a bigger venue in order to fit everybody. Other than that, it works. The format works. From the day it was created, I’ve been running the show ever since. I still currently run the show with Val Jones — who does a tremendous job keeping everyone in line and keeping the show moving forward.
We may look at doing a traveling ANME for the future, but that’s about it. See you in Burbank!