Creating a Sensation: Q&A With Lavi Yedid of NS Novelties

Brian Sofer

Lavi Yedid is a 30-plus year industry veteran and has been on all sides of the business. From running the day-to-day at one of the industry’s first super distributors, to developing new and unique products for the biggest names in the pleasure products world – he’s pretty much seen it all. A few years ago Lavi brought his creativity and experience to NS Novelties (NSN) as director of operations.

Always enlightening, Yedid recently sat down with XBIZ for a wide-ranging interview.

With so many products available in the market, it’s hard to imagine there is a need or a reason to make even more toys. But that was exactly the idea behind NS Novelties.

XBIZ: Thanks for your time today Lavi, it is appreciated. How about your stats… where are you from?

Lavi Yedid: I was born and raised in Nahariya, Israel – a small village on the Mediterranean coast. I moved to the U.S. when I was 15 years old. After a short stint in Brooklyn, shoveling snow one winter was enough for me, and then out to California where the lifestyle and weather was more to my liking.

XBIZ: How and when did you get your start in adult?

Yedid: My start was with Lucky Distributors selling magazines – three-packs to liquor stores and newsstands. That was in 1982 I think – Lucky was down the block from CPLC, and that’s where I went in the morning to load up on the hardcore magazines before heading out. VHS and Beta were just starting to replace Super 8 films in the stores. Eventually I met Lenny Friedlander, with Marlen’s Distributors, who called me to help him run New Beginnings after he left Marlen’s. The following 13 years were spent at New Beginnings building one of the first super distributors.

XBIZ: And you were director of operations at New Beginnings – so how did you transition into product development at Doc Johnson?

Yedid: Yes, well, during the first few years in the magazines business I put myself through college, earning a degree in two and three-dimensional design. Architecture has always been one of my passions as well as art. New Beginnings allowed me the time and opportunities to learn this business in terms of product and personnel. It was the first of the super distributors – we carried every product from every manufacturer at the time – I knew every item number and every product sold. So really, my position allowed me to meet and befriend many individuals on the retail level, manufacturer level and distributor level. New Beginnings gave me the ultimate background I needed for Doc Johnson.

At Doc I was able to utilize my artistic education and background – combined with my understanding of the adult market – to create and direct the path we embarked on during my time there. All the pieces started to fall into place. Often I hear kids say, “Why am I learning this? I will never use this information.” But for me, I saw those 20 years of experiences and education all come full circle. I finally had the tools to create, and the knowledge of what to do with, all these creations.

XBIZ: What was the state of adult toys in the early/mid 90s compared to today?

Yedid: In the mid-‘90s we already saw a change in the product and the market. Everything was improving – the product, the packages, the stores – there was already improvement, which is still going on to this day. Sure there was still a lot of crappy, cheap product – but there were a lot of exciting new things coming out too.

XBIZ: What was better/worse in the toy world compared to today?

Yedid: Well, the ‘90s was a time of growth and excitement. The industry was still an outlaw of sorts. There was a definite feeling of family or community that outsiders were not a part of. It was much smaller back then. Like anything else, it’s not a better or worse question – it’s a question of pluses and minuses. As with all change, you get positive and negative effects. The market is a lot more competitive today, but that also drives more development, opening new markets, and inviting fresh, new avenues to explore.

XBIZ: Tell us about the origins of NS Novelties...

Yedid: With so many products available in the market, it’s hard to imagine there is a need or a reason to make even more toys. But that was exactly the idea behind NS Novelties. We believe we can do things better. While everyone is making wonderful products, we can take it a step further – improve on a staple item and/or design something unique. Here, product development is dictated by a variety of factors including the surrendering environment and current company direction. NSN allowed for a fresh start with no hindering or limitation. Any product category was an available field and an open opportunity. Any concept brought to the table was discussed and analyzed. All at once we were developing high-end, rechargeable, silicone products alongside masturbators, butt plugs, glass product, bondage accessories and more.

XBIZ: How has NSN, a new kid on the block, been able to find success so quickly?

Yedid: By doing what we promised – better product, better pricing, better packaging. To some it might seem quick but NSN was the continuation of many years in this industry. We started off with a great team. Everything just came together smoothly. The art department hit the right notes in terms of packaging – and the years of relationships in both manufacturing and distribution all came together. The support we had from the distributors and retailers was amazing – can’t thank everyone enough. Distributors and retailers liked what they saw, incorporated the product into their collection and quickly found out that the consumer felt the same way.

XBIZ: What sets NSN apart?

Yedid: There are a few things that we are doing to distinguish NSN, as anyone must do when working in a saturated field – we look to see what the industry is doing now, try and predict where it is heading and be there first. NSN is growing a distinctive look in terms of packaging which is the first impression a customer sees when they enter a store. In terms of products, NSN is developing them using better and safer materials while keeping pricing at an attractive price point. As more retailers, distributors and consumers delve into the components of the product, they come to realize that an NSN delivers a better product. NSN is also unique in our drive to keep only the best-selling items in our inventory. While many of the products maintained their salability over the last three years, not everything sells. With so many products available today – if the product does not find a good sell through rate, we remove it from our collection – there’s no need to keep low-selling product in the collection. We have many concepts and designs to develop, so rather than grow the collection to unmanageable numbers our aim is to keep it evolving and encompassing only the better selling product.

XBIZ: What’s been NSN’s most successful line? Why?

Yedid: We have had great success with a few lines. For the male consumer we offer the Renegade line of products. This line was introduced as part of our first collection and found a large audience worldwide. Simple, attractive packaging aimed at the male consumer combined with original product collection – like the Man’s Pleasure Rocker, Renegade Man’s Ring, Ultra Slick Silicone Plugs – and continuing with more releases including the latest additions of Renegade Power Pump, Spades Silicone plugs, Mini Inflatable Plug, Ripcord and more. The unique shapes and designs found in this collection have made it a bestseller.

XBIZ: Nice. What else?

Yedid: Another successful line has been our Crystal Glass. While glass products are not new to the industry, NSN’s package design allows the product to be properly displayed and appreciated by consumers. The combination of unique designs and vibrant colors has made it a great seller for retailers worldwide. All NSN glass is annealed to assure a defect-free product, which is more resilient than your standard borosilicate glass products. Also Sinful Bondage was first introduced as a seven-piece collection with wrist cuffs, ankle cuffs, ball gag, blindfold, whip, paddle and collar and leash – all in pink vinyl. We offered a jaw-dropping package design housing a new twist on bondage gear utilizing vinyl, neoprene and nickel-free hardware. The success of the first collection was followed by a black version of the original seven products. Since then we have added five new designs – a hog tie, bed straps, waist harness in two sizes and O ring mouth gag with interchangeable rings – with attractive packaging, innovative product and extremely appealing price points made this line a home run for NSN.

All these items share the same thread for success: original, modern, attractive packaging, products that are manufactured with the highest quality materials that feature unique, original shapes offered at a good price point – It’s the theme that continues throughout our entire collection.

XBIZ: As a product developer, how accurately are you able to forecast the success of a certain line?

Yedid: It’s really hard to predict how the market will accept a new product. During development you grow certain expectations of the product based on its uniqueness, the sale price, and past experiences. It’s interesting to see which products fall short of these expectations and which ones far exceed them. There are so many variants that contribute to the success of a product. The only certain thing is – nothing is certain. At NSN we only continue developing products that we really believe will perform well. Products that we’re not 1,000 percent confident in do not make it to the final stage of production; we try and weed out any product that might be borderline. But there is really no way to know what will become the next big thing.

XBIZ: Any stories you care to share about a line you thought was going to explode – but fizzled? And the flipside - when a line you had low expectations for, wound up taking off?

Yedid: One of the items we developed originally was the Alise rechargeable vibrator. By comparison it was one of the best-designed and manufactured vibes on the market. Strong vibrations, velvet touch silicone that was fully flexible since we were able to develop this vibe without a hard plastic interior structure making most similar vibrators stiff and rigid. Everyone lauded the package, it provided many display options and the price point was excellent. Yet two years after its introduction, sales dictated that we discontinue this product. On the other hand, certainly it’s always a nice feeling to see a new line grab a hold, generate reorders and become a core item. We try not to become too attached to any product and let sales dictate its ongoing viability.

XBIZ: Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and everyone in the industry is preparing for a big one with the premiere of the first “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie. How significant do you expect this will be for NS and the industry as a whole?

Yedid: In terms of the industry it will be excellent. The more exposure we get especially in terms of positive publicity the better. As more mainstream grow to accept toys as part of their lives, the bigger our market will grow. In terms of NS, we have quite a few items that match the FSOG premise. We just introduced a new bondage line called Bare. The line is manufactured with transparent vinyl so it’s a very Vogue, fashion-oriented product line. It doe not leave anything to the imagination. Of course the Sinful Bondage line will be a perfect product for consumers who want to delve into the world of S&M to take home. Round it up with our Jolie plugs, Crystal Glass, Tinglers vibrating plugs and we have an entire collection that is suited for the FSOG crowd.

XBIZ: Does NS have specific FSOG-friendly products debuting in conjunction with the release?

Yedid: We did not tailor specific product to this phenomenon – we create for the long term. One can look into the tie-in from the angle of S&M and anal toys or from the angle of mainstream interest in the unexplored world of sex toys and porn. The entire line of NSN product will appeal to both these segments regardless of what prompted their interest. We are situated to deliver both item specific product and overall shopping experience to a new segment of the market.

XBIZ: How does NS plan to grab new pleasure products customers FSOG will potentially funnel into adult stores everywhere?

Yedid: Since its inception, NSN has been geared towards this point. Not on purpose but as a by-product. One of the initial aims of the company was to develop a look and packaging style that will be at home in any retail department store as well as in an adult store. It is a look that is clean and modern that appeals to today’s consumer. So that will be the first attraction to someone who walks into our world for the first time. The second impression will be when the consumer holds one of our products in their hand. TPE products that are odorless, glass products that are vibrant, silicone products that deliver exceptional quality and design. The groundwork has already been done.

XBIZ: How much pop culture/current events/trends is taken into consideration when developing a new product/line? (for example, a yoga sex swing probably wouldn’t have existed 15 years ago because yoga was hardly as popular.)

Yedid: We (artists/designers/developers) are always influenced by the world around us. Colors that are in style will find their way into our industry. New products introduce us into possible technologies that might be used in our toys. We are influenced by everything we see, hear and taste.

XBIZ: Where is the industry headed – in terms of products? Apps? Apps? Apps? What else?

Yedid: Apps are interesting but still a fad. The technologies have not been perfected yet. It’s a niche market that could be sizable given time and further development. Short-term heading? New materials, better motors, new mechanical components and while its hard to imagine a new shape that have not been created yet, there are still more to come.

XBIZ: Many adult studios have transitioned into pleasure products as video and DVD customers have migrated to free/pirated tube and amateur websites – what’s the “tube website/piracy” threat of the pleasure products industry?

Yedid: The more successful you are the more chance there will be knock-offs. Popular products have been knocked off and sold at cheaper pricing. We see it with clothes, bags, electronics and sex toys. It’s the mentality of “ easier to copy and sell cheap then develop and create a market.” It’s an issue that major name brand companies are trying to deal with and as sex toys become more and more popular we will need to deal with the same issues. Unfortunately we already found some copies of our best-selling items. It’s hard to control but we are committed to protect our designs and ideas.

XBIZ: One quote I’ve always heard in the industry when discussing potential threats was, “you can’t download a dildo.” However, 3D printers now exist – do you see this as a potential issue?

Yedid: Anyone that has worked with 3D software and printers know it’s not an easy task. Yes, it will become easier in the future but you will always have a sector of the population that will not be tech savvy. Then becomes the question of costs associated with the software and hardware. Yes, they will become more affordable but when and how much is to be seen. Will one spend hours to design, build and execute a plug that they can buy for $10? At some point it does not make sense – you just buy the product and move on. It is hard to predict the industry past the next 10 years but for the time being I think we are safe.

XBIZ: What do you like best about the industry?

Yedid: Personally I like the creation process and seeing it all come together. I enjoy working the pieces of the puzzle and seeing it all develop into a final product and then seeing the individual items come together as a collection. On top of that there are the people I have met along the way. Some have become good friends and that is priceless. My position has also allowed me to travel extensively throughout the world, seeing new places and enjoying new experiences.

XBIZ: How does Lavi relax?

Yedid: I like creating. At work most of my time is spent behind a desk, working on the computer or drawing on paper (yes, I still use the old fashion paper and pencil when I draw). So to relax I like to do more physical creation. Remodeling homes from the ground up keeps me busy on evenings and weekends. I find that while I am working with my hands, it frees my mind to wonder freely – a lot of the toy designs get articulated in my mind during these work hours. Again, seeing the creation process come to fruition is what the ultimate goal is. I have been fortunate to have had a father who showed me how to use tools, how to weld, lay tile, put up drywall or just about anything involving tools and my hands.

XBIZ: Favorite vacation destination?

Yedid: Moorea (French Polynesia), Italy, Yucatan Mexico, Japan – there are so many amazing places in this world to see and experience it’s hard to pick one. Sometimes all I want to do is dive so I head to Cozumel, sometimes it’s just a stroll in Paris seeing the sights. I can never get enough of Amsterdam. There are so many places in the world to still cross off my bucket list.

XBIZ: Someone told me you were a fellow old Deadhead – how many shows?

Yedid: I guess at this point you need to be old to have experienced the GD. I don’t keep count – it’s quite a few. I have been lucky to see hundreds of shows from a variety of artists starting in the late ‘70s. My first show was a triple-header of Mollie Hatchet, Blue Oyster Colt and Foghat. Music is a creative experience – hearing music being created on stage is an amazing experience. I once tried to put a list of acts I have seen over the last 35-year and its endless. I enjoyed hearing [Gustavo] Dudamel at Disney hall as much as Pearl Jam. I would give a lot to see Genesis perform their first three albums with Peter Gabriel. Never got to see Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin. Other than that I saw every musical act I had an interest in.

XBIZ: Great, well I think that does it – Thanks Lavi!

Yedid: My pleasure.