For Sale… Everything!

Roy Karch

The current retail XXXplosion is affecting most hard goods being sold these days. It’s no accident that XBIZ once again seizes the moment and is bringing you its very own Retail Expo & Conference this month in Hollywood.

I must say it reminds me of the days of salesrooms, watts lines, order forms, drop shipments, show specials, RA’s, credit lines, auto ship, Net-5, 15 or 30-day billing cycles. And professional salesmen — lots of them — scouring the stores for new customers. Yes, salesmen. All dialing for dollars, working on a salary plus a 10-percent commission. Sometimes there would be a ‘draw’ given as an advance. These were the days before conglomerate distributors, before the chains when they were simple, family-owned, small businesses. These “mom & pop” stores were the backbone of the industry for some 20 years.

I ran two such salesrooms for two major studios in the eighties and into the nineties. First I ran a fourperson room for Gourmet Video Collection, or GVC, in North Hollywood beginning in 1979. Later I was the national sales manager for Western Visuals, running a 14-person room in Van Nuys during the nineties. Each room had its cast of characters ranging from ex-professors to ex-addicts and alcoholics, to dysfunctional porn hounds. There were also excons, ex-dope dealers and police officers. One thing they had in common, however, was the SALE. They all wanted to make THE sale! Some of them stood out as the best salesmen I had ever seen. Others had no clue. Everyone kept dialing. It’s a numbers game after all. Dial the number, say hello, make the pitch and CLOSE! Lists of stores were provided for the cold-calling novices and those who needed to build a client base. Between 1980 when the VCR was first introduced with VHS or Betamax right on its heels, there were about 32,000 independently owned and operated retail stores selling adult videos in the U.S. It was a wide-open market and the public, after getting a taste of porn in their home, was getting hungry.

I remember early one morning when I first started as the sales manager for Western Visuals, the owner called me into his upstairs office, closed the door and said to me, “Now you have 14 guys all selling here for you and thereby for me. I expect you to get from your room each week one-hundred thousand dollars in gross sales. Anything less and I’ll be very disappointed with you. Stay on these guys and make it happen.”

In the four years that I was producing his movies and running his sales department, my salesroom sometimes did $93,000, sometimes $104,000 and sometimes in the middle. It varied but always stayed close to that 100 G’s he wanted. When you average a hundred thousand per week for those four years, you get 20 million gross dollars in VHS sales. That’s correct, 20 million from my salesroom. That’s separate from the private deals he would make with his very special clients, friends, etc. Business was booming.

Chain stores began popping up. And in 1983 I closed a deal with Tower Video — with 92 stores — to carry XXX video for the very first time. One Saturday morning, the head buyer from Tower’s San Francisco home office and I stocked the entire adult section at their Sunset Strip megastore in Hollywood. Tower Records had become Tower Video! They wanted what became their usual draw of 10 of each title for each store each month. This deal changed retail forever.

VHS reluctantly became DVD and the sales grew in kind. Porn had become legal in the meantime and the world exploded into the newfound home orgasm due to the images now on their televisions.

Distributors grew in number as well. There was General Video of America (GVA) with strategically placed outlets around the country; Goalie Enterprises in the Rockies; Capital News Agency in the Midwest, along with Fairvilla Megastore in Florida and IVD in the Northeast were all selling Xrated product.

Currently, adult toys have become the rage. Manufacturer Doc Johnson has been a major player for years. The company’s owner, Ron Braverman, once told me, “I pour my own rubber, right here!” Doc has been joined in the adult toy marketplace by Nasstoys, Eldorado, P.K. Distributors, Liberator and scores of others. The abundance of adult products is clearly visible and moving forward in the digital world with more gadgets with more bells and whistles creating a buzz being heard around the globe. The genie is out of the bottle. So what are you waiting for?

Go get your own buzz on.

Just…Don’t get me started!

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