Execs of 2015: Retail Industry Businesswomen Discuss Top Business Drivers

XBIZ Premiere

XBIZ Premiere is pleased to present “Execs of 2015: The Year in Review.”

Each of the executives we spoke to below has one thing in common — they are among the finalist nominees for the online industry edition of the 2016 XBIZ Exec Awards.

Relative to what industry trends or innovations motivated me in the last year, I have to say it was the Classic Erotica expansion into the E.U. markets. -Lynn Swanson, Classic Erotica

XBIZ captures the thoughts of these influential and motivational leaders as we sought their take of the year 2015.

The following question about the year in review was asked to those running for the Businesswoman Of The Year:

XBIZ: What industry trends and/or innovations motivated you the most this year?

Donna Faro
Director of Sales and Marketing, LELO

“While LELO has had couples at heart since it launched in 2003, we — and by extension, the industry as a whole — have generally devoted more time to producing pleasure products for women. It was exciting to watch the change in direction this year as LELO broadened its portfolio by offering superior and exciting sex toys for men. The range of luxury prostate massagers we unveiled in the last two quarters of 2015 was part of a wider trend of higher quality male pleasure products across the adult sector, and that was motivating to see. It is a welcomed necessity, alongside the trend towards more diverse and multi-functional products that allow for more male participation and total satisfaction — something everyone deserves.”

Bonnie Feingold
President and CEO, Honey's Place

“At Honey’s Place, this year was about continuing to plan for our future. As part of our focus, we are completely updating our systems and technology to help us to continue to stay relevant. With better analytical data, we are more easily able to target the market trends, thereby supporting our customers. Some of the trends we are noticing here at Honey’s Place are an increase in lingerie, fetish, bachelorette and LGBT products. We have also noticed that with this increase, we are able to cater to a broader base of customers. As for products, we are seeing many manufacturers updating their packaging and releasing higher quality items while keeping price points in mind. This includes an increase in affordable luxury items that attracts a more diverse base of customers. At Honey’s Place, we will continue to always look at the market trends as we focus on our customers, our technology and providing top-notch customer support.”

Jane Liszewski
Vice President of Marketing, Classic Erotica

“I have to say this was a year that I felt motivated to break through the industry trends and embrace a more mainstream influence. I was inspired by various publications such as Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair and Details to move the Classic Erotica machine forward into trendier formats. This was portrayed first in our 2015 catalog and marketing visuals. Taking the influence further, we broke the typical adult flavors/fragrance barrier and initiated our associated specialties to help set us apart from our competitors. Every year is a challenge to set new goals and reach new heights, always aspiring to keep our brands practical yet astounding, bold and surprising. After all, isn’t that what sex is all about? It has been an honor to work each day — so far now, 34 years — doing what I love: developing and designing new ways for folks to enjoy each other and embrace their sexuality.”

Shay Martin
Vice President, Vibratex, Inc.

“What really motivated my team and myself the most this year was not necessarily a trend or innovation, but more of listening to what our retailers and consumers really wanted. And that was a cordless version of the Magic Wand Original. For so many years, Hitachi would not answer our plea for a cordless version — and this year, we decided to really try and convince them and add some touches that would make this massage wand stand out. After trips to Japan, copious amounts of wine given to the powers that be — our version of marketing sometimes — and much discussion, they saw the light and decided to get on board with us to create The Magic Wand Rechargeable with many different components but the same reliability and not least of all, the power. To me, this iconic product was our baby for the year.”

Karla Scott
Sales Director, Eldorado Trading Company

“This year has been one for us all to question how to best utilize our vendor partners to ultimately benefit our customers. Do we ask for a vendor’s support for store trainings? How do we create a greater impact from their support? What requirements for tester programs, give-away requests, can we as a distributor provide? By asking these questions, they have made us, as a sales team, think creatively with ways to best utilize the resources we have available to us at Eldorado — and in turn, make our customers successful. The sales team’s daily agendas have consisted of what they can do to assist with the growth and success of their customers.”

Julie Stewart
President, Sportsheets International

“Of course, the big trend over Valentine’s this year was the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ movie. We were ready for that long before the movie release. The exciting opportunity now is reengaging some of the first-time customers who were introduced to our products from the movie. We developed a line called Sexperiments to reach this newer consumer, with assortments and individual pieces that speak of quality, luxury and fantasy in a beautiful package.”

Lynn Swanson
Director of Sales, Classic Erotica

“This year has been filled with closing deals, building relationships, exhibiting at trade shows and customer trainings, all which motivate me to put in the extra effort to strive to do the best I can every day. Relative to what industry trends or innovations motivated me in the last year, I have to say it was the Classic Erotica expansion into the E.U. markets. The dedication and focus to take on an international market is most exciting. I was greatly impacted by the 2015 Erofame Show. Representing an American company in a foreign land can have its obvious challenges, but attending potential customers very quickly became new friends. Out of these friendships will bloom new business endeavors. After spending all of my adult years in this industry, I have found that trust and building relationships create the best business partners.”

Sarah Tomchesson
Head Of Business Operations, The Pleasure Chest

“It is very motivating to see the collective work we have done as an industry — normalizing and promoting sexual fulfillment as a central component to a happy and healthy life — taking root. Two years ago, when Pleasure Chest sought to open a location on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in one of the most famous shopping districts in the world, we struggled to find a landlord who thought we would be a good fit. Now, our 2nd Avenue location has surpassed the traffic and sales of our legacy location in the West Village, which has been a neighborhood institution for nearly half a century. Eight years ago, Love L.A., with a similar format to the Sexual Health Expo, did not make it past its inaugural event. SHE’s resounding success this year is an encouraging sign that consumers are now eager to support an upscale, education-focused, sexuality event. I look forward to our continued efforts as an industry to expand upon this trend of mainstream acceptance.”

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