Successful Store Signings

Matt O'Conner
It's a bright, beautiful, sunny Saturday in Oxnard, Calif., a good day to be outdoors playing ball, riding a bike or just enjoying the warm weather.

But dozens of the locals are choosing instead to spend their Saturday indoors. They've packed into the A View To Video adult store, hoping to meet Penthouse Pets and Sin City contract stars Hannah Harper and Gina Austin.

They ask the girls for autographs, pose for pictures with them. Big smiles all around. Nobody is worried about wasting a nice day.

They'd rather be inside and close to the girls. They aren't the only ones with smiles on their faces.

Store owner Daryl Jenkins is a happy man, too, because the fans aren't just milling about; they're buying videos. Lots of them. And he knows they'll be back for more.

Jenkins does one or two signings a month at his two Oxnard A View To Video locations.

Jenkins, who has about 20,000 adult videos in stock at all times, says the starlets are a huge draw for fans, helping him bring in new customers, building relationships with his existing customers and, most importantly, driving sales. The best case scenario are starlets who have substantial bodies of work that the store can put on display. "I'll run a deal on those movies, get the box covers personally signed by the girl," he tells XBiz. "When Max [Hardcore] came in with Kendra [Jade], we sold better than two-to-one what we normally sell." Like most retailers, Jenkins had some help from his distributor in organizing the event, as well as a promotional push from Sin City, which blasted adult media outlets with press releases.

"The key is getting people in the door," Jenkins says.

That's easier said than done, according to Jenkins.

"We run ads on radio, in newspapers, wherever they'll let me put in an ad," he says. "But I'll tell you, promoting adult is the hardest thing you'll ever do because everyone wants to pretend it doesn't exist."

Often, distributors will supply artwork for ads and posters. Jenkins also tries to run radio ads on multiple stations reaching different target demographics. "We'll work with a company like Clear Channel to find a station that reaches our older customers, say 45 and older," he says, "and one that reaches the younger kids, the hiphop crowd."

Who covers the costs and does the legwork? Typically, the store covers the costs of flying girls to the local city, putting them up in a hotel and most of the advertising costs.

"It's either/or," Daniel Metcalf, who has been involved with dozens of signings for Wicked Pictures, tells XBiz. "In some cases, we've shared the logistics and cost of promotion. In a well-executed signing or tour, you'll involve local radio, local web and print press, and look for other ways to exploit the promotional value of the signing, such as having the contract talent host a local nightclub event."

Media Interviews
Sin City Sales Manager Danny Gorman says another effective — and free — promotional avenue is offering to arrange interviews with local radio DJs.

"I usually ask the store to try to get us on a local radio show, to arrange for the girls to do an interview the day before the signing or the morning of the signing,"

Gorman tells XBiz. "A lot of these talk stations love to have the girls on; it's an easy sell, and [the exposure] draws in a lot of fans." Gorman points to one signing he helped organize several years ago in Phoenix, Ariz., in which porn star Houston — one of the more media-savvy performers of her time — was interviewed by three of the biggest stations in the market, and the store ended up with lines around the corner.

He says that kind of a turnout is a good day for everyone involved, from the studio to the girls themselves.

"It's a great vehicle for the store and for us," he says. "It gives the store a chance to sell lots of DVDs, and there are a lot of people who'll come into the store because of the signing — first-time customers who come back again. So, the store owner is happy, and the happier he is, the happier I am, because it means he's ordering more of my DVDs."

Gorman said larger chains like Castle Books and Movie Gallery will sometimes order several hundred extra pieces of a title when the star is coming to the store, which means profits for the store, the distributor and, ultimately, Sin City. And the girls make money from taking Polaroid pictures with fans — up to $25 a pop, so they're happy, too.

"Another popular option is to have the radio station itself do a live remote from the signing," offers Metcalf. "That often proves to be one of the most effective ways to drive foot traffic to your event."

Timing of the event itself also is a factor. After 20 years of experience hosting signings, Jenkins has found he gets the best results when he hosts a signing on a Saturday and starts it in the afternoon so that it goes into the early evening.

But the most crucial element, all agree, is the girls themselves.

Performers' Attitudes
Jenkins said the performer's attitude has a direct impact on sales. "Someone like Kendra, she has a great personality and understands what needs to get done. She said to me, 'My job is to make you guys happy.' More girls should watch her and learn from her. But a lot of the girls are not dependable. They show up late, and you end up with [customers] bugging on you."

Gorman adds that some stores have reported such negative experiences dealing with girls that they've sworn off signings forever. "Some girls don't care or put out much effort," he says, "and that can be a turnoff for the fans. You want a girl who's reliable, who shows up on time, who has a good personality."

And that's not the only time customers "bug," according to Gorman, who says Sin City usually sends an escort to accompany girls to signings to keep possible stalkers at bay.

"One guy came in with a book of stick figure drawings of how he wanted the girls to pose," he recalls. "I wondered, 'Exactly how long did this guy work on those drawings?' For some of these guys, their whole lives are based around [porn]. It's good to have someone there to watch out for the girls."

You also have to be on the lookout for fans who may not be fans, but local law enforcement, especially in Southern states where many communities have strict rules regarding what's allowed at in-store events and would like nothing better than to bust the local adult shop.

Still, despite these concerns, Jenkins says he swears by signings as a way to drive new business.

"When you're opening up a new store, what better way is there to get it off the ground than having girls come in?" he says.

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