BURBANK, Calif. — XBIZ Retail day one brought packed seminar halls, a robust speed networking session and a reinvigorated exhibition hall with business taking place throughout the Burbank Airport Marriott hotel.
The first seminar of the day covered the various challenges that today’s adult retailers face and offered expert advice from the industry’s top retailers. The buzzword among the panel was branding.
Good Vibrations’ Joel Kaminsky initiated the discussion on the power of private-labeling with the example of how Good Vibes’ wholesale arm serves to offer consumers a unique brand. SexToyDistributing.com’s Ari Suss echoed the sentiment and explained how his company empowers the formation of brands by offering wholesale products in bulk. “You can name it whatever you want; create your own brand,” Suss said.
While interstate billboard ads, flexible return policies and sales incentives have proven profitable for The Lion’s Den chain of stores, education-focused retailers such as The Pleasure Chest and Peekay have achieved a success and longevity by maintaining motivated, knowledgeable staff.
Following the seminar, the first-ever retail-focused XBIZ Speed Networking, sponsored by Fleshlight, overflowed with participants and was the highlight of the day for many.
“The networking session was amazing,” Tantus sales manager Rita Healy said. “It offered a great opportunity to meet clients face-to-face.”
Wet For Her’s Casey O’Connell, a seasoned XBIZ speed networker, said she was pleased with its retail-focused edition.
“I’ve done XBIZ’s speed networking for webmasters and I’m excited that it’s finally in a retail format,” she said. “It was good to have it early in the morning and get the social juices flowing for the rest of the day.”
XXX Truth or Dare Managing Director Sean was impressed with the traffic to his XBIZ Retail booth that resulted from his participation in the speed networking session.
“Speed networking was the highlight of the show today,” he said. “It was a great ice breaker and generated a lot of business for me – I’d say about 98 percent of those meeting resulted in sales. The response to the XXX Truth or Dare board game was 100 times better than I expected.”
While BeaMonstar Products’ President Jeff Bolanos networked, Hector Flores manned the booth during the session. “Within the first hour of the show I had about five visitors at our booth,” he said.
XBIZ Retail, however, wasn’t all about meeting potential new buyers.
While exhibiting at the show, Standard Innovation Corp. is on a mission to find qualified industry pros to fill a range of positions within the company.
“We’re looking for open-minded, passionate individuals with industry knowledge to fill a range of newly created roles,” Standard Innovation’s marketing communications manager Sarah Bobas said. “The company is on a growth trajectory and it’s only going to get bigger and better.”
Stockroom wholesale manager Layla Ross took a break from the company’s booth to film an upcoming episode of “Honey’s Place Live” in a suite at the Marriott. Featuring hosts Lou Anginone and Laura Sweet, Ross showcased Stockroom’s latest and greatest taken from the company’s XBIZ Retail booth, including KinkLab beginner’s bondage gear and demonstrated the electrifying capabilities of the KinkLab Neon Wand kit on the “Honey’s Place Live” hosts. The taped demo also included use of Stockroom’s new Power Tripper, which turns the user into a human electrode and in the demo, turned the show’s trio into a human daisy chain.
On the XBIZ Retail exhibition floor, Shunga Erotic Art’s got distributor support from Holiday Products sales manager Diana Fitzgerald, who helped work the booth. Elsewhere, XGen debuted its new Lapdance line of clubwear with corresponding planogram for retailers, along with new additions to the Eye Candy line of accessories.
Attendees made their way to booths belonging to Kama Sutra, which demonstrated the effectiveness of its Honey Dust as a moisture repellent with a cup of water topped by an impenetrable layer of the product.
Motivated by the opportunity to win an iPad by visiting the most distributors, attendees also got a taste of the newest releases from companies including California Fantasies and Allure Lingerie.
And things didn’t slow down one bit on the exhibit show floor during the afternoon sessions.
Fueled by a heavy amount of valuable seminar information, attendees hit their favorite vendors to ask questions and see what products worked for their respective businesses.
Adult game and product company XXX Truth or Dare, made a unique impression on show visitors with its couples’ role-playing game that according to director Sean Ritchie kept a steady stream of show attendees visiting his both and asking questions about his product.
“The traffic has been very good so far. We have both retailers and wholesalers coming by — these are the folks who are the key to our business and core associations,” Ritchie said.
The company announced that because of its popularity and the success of the show, it made a point of introducing its new gay its new gay and lesbian version of the game. “We’ve only been here for half a day and we’ve already made sales. It’s absolutely wonderful,” Ritchie commented.
Another satisfied vendor, Michelle Liss, sales representative for the increasingly popular Fleshdrive product said that she and her company loved their experience at the retail side of the XBZ L.A. experience primarily because it allowed her to introduce its products to people who normally wouldn’t be aware.
Liss said, “Here are distributors, content providers, regular customers, educators — all people who may not have ever heard of Fleshdrive all in one place. I love that kind of flexibility in marketing and sales. You can’t always get someone in the phone or by email. Being face-to-face is great and a key reason why we exhibit here."
Renowned penis pump producer Dr. Joel Kaplan’s exhibitor camp echoed Liss’ satisfaction with their show presence.
Melissa Torres, Kaplan purchasing and sales manager was excited about premiering the company’s new “Premium Megavac” product that they said increases penis size, length and girth through a male enhancement vacuum system that operates via standard electrical household outlets.
Torres said that the company has debuted a number of new products recently including supplements and Cialis and Viagra boosters and the show was the perfect place to connect with regular customers and new prospects.
The show floor also offered an opportunity for a more varied, mixed-bag of adult product vendors to showcase their wares that included some first-timers and mainstream crossovers.
E-tique, a QR code scanning company was on hand to demonstrate how their product could assist retailers in the ever changing and lightning fast mobile world. Company representative Ed Bondanza said that he was fielding a number of questions from show attendees — some knowledgeable, and some brand new to QR codes — about how they can use the codes on their packaging.
"There are a lot of people coming by. It’s pretty cool. The best part is I like telling them how they can use the QR codes as stockers on their packaging and how they can be used to scan information from customers’ smartphones,” Bondanza said.
A major highlight of day one at the Retail Conference was the lively and informative keynote speech delivered by novelties manufacturer California Exotics Novelties’ CEO Susan Colvin.
The executive immediately grasped the packed conference room by stressing what adult retailers need to do to increase their sales in 2012 and the importance of meeting the challenges every day. “Every year we need to reinvent ourselves. Adapting to changing markets, economic climates, and trends in society are what keep business viable,” she said.
Colvin maintained that retailers must adopt mainstream techniques and develop a cohesive plan in order to be successful. "I would like to ask every retailer here to make one of your goals this year to study and follow mainstream marketing concepts. If we all commit to this, we win as business and an industry," she said.
The CEO noted that the line between adult and mainstream is blurring and pointed to five key ways to accomplish a mainstream strategy including: developing a consumer-centric philosophy; merchandising like a mainstream stores; identifying and emulating mainstream promotional techniques; embracing and experimenting with new technology and making social media part of the retailer’s marketing mix.
Retail marketers must concentrate on every aspect of appealing to the consumer including product, packaging ad promotion, Colvin maintained. She said that it isn’t features and benefits that sell a product, but identifying what it does for the consumer.
Merchandising like a mainstream store is also important. Colvin said retailers must make customers feel comfortable in an adult store as if it’s a mainstream store by including new products sections, moving walls and products to move foot traffic in different ways, grouping product in collections by using “plan-o-grams,” and putting premiere products at eye level to take advantage of the most desirable shelf positions.
“Another strategy that produces sales is clearly defined sections of products,” she said, emphasizing that with so many manufacturers and so many lines of products, without a plan, retailers could confuse consumers.
Using mainstream promotional techniques was also high on the keynoter’s talk. She said things like adopting the Thanksgiving night store openings to take advantage of Black Friday sales and having fashion and bridal industry “trunk sales” as alternatives to ladies’ nights as examples of copying what works for mainstream and that can also work for adult.
“Participating in the community,” can help retailers get on the same playing field as mainstream, Colvin added, and donating money to worthy causes is also a great way to get involved. “The days of the ‘dirty bookstore” are gone, and to move forward, we need to prove that we are good citizens, the same as the other retailers in your neighborhood.”
Colvin is also a fan of technology and stressed that retailers just embrace social media, pointing out that if they don’t have a website – they “don’t exist.” She recommended promoting the website in the store and putting the web address on everything that leaves the store.
Social media is also necessary. Colvin said that every store should have a dedicated promotion person for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp, etc. And the executive also recommended considering offering special discounts on sites like Groupon and Living Social.
Colvin’s stimulating talk gripped the attention of the crowd when she said, “Don’t forget the fact that new consumers are coming of age daily. Generation Y and Z are digital natives; they grew up with technology and are hip to social networking and QR codes as part of their daily routine."
“Staying current is critical in a competitive web 2.0 world,” Colvin advised.
A day full of industry smarts, tips and valuable insight wound down at the show’s XBIZ Retail Welcome Reception where show attendees, exhibitors and adult industry professionals gathered to network.
Adam & Eve Internet merchandising manager Ken Lassiter was glad to have time to meet with colleagues in a more informal setting. He said, “The show was very informative and I really enjoyed the networking seminars. But having the opportunity to meet and greet with folks after the show just made the whole day’s experience even that more enjoyable.”
Lassiter noted that Adam & Eve’s web presence has been so successful the company's next step is moving toward sexual wellness and health, and that the show and gathering was a great place to talk up the new approach.
Doc Johnson’s Chad Braverman called the show “the essential retail show,” while toasting some of his fellow novelty pros at the mixer. “This is a great way to kick off the festivities — drinks, laughter and fun for the New Year,” Braverman said.
GlamorGirl magazine publisher Rich Hansen agreed and added that this year’s soiree was one of the best gatherings of industry pros he’s ever seen. “It’s really nice seeing the caliber of industry people all in one place."
Hansen made a point of noticing that top industry luminaries were rubbing elbows with salespeople and retail storeowners — a benefit for anyone looking to gain valuable knowledge at the elbows of those who’ve been around.
Even some non-retail adult types made the scene.
Adult legend Ron Jeremy took some time from greeting fans and said that while he’s not involved with much of the behind-the-scenes happenings in adult commerce, being an actor and director, he nevertheless was appreciative of the great opportunity to meet retailers at the cocktail hour.
“This was a great way to catch up with people who could be interested in me and my new product, Ron’s Rum. We’re starting to make headway with distributors in Florida and other places so what better place than here to get the word out with the retail segment?,” he said.
Another non-retail adult notable, Luc Wylder, producer and director of Fallen Angel films was particularly interested in the show and the Welcome Reception because he felt sex toys are the way of the future and wanted to be in the know by getting insight straight from the pros.
Wylder was seeking product for his novelty website silktique.com and found a number of interested parties.
And adult star Alexandra Silk, who’s now become a certified sex surrogate who ses sex toys in her practice, chatted up Paradise marketing’s Dennis Dillon in what she called an intimate setting where people could have fun and still talk business.
Beamonstar President Jeff Bolanos weighed in again, this time summing up the day’s end and said, “It’s important for attendees and exhibitors to have a comfortable watering hole where they can discuss business. It’s a time to be open and honest without flying the company flags. We get to know each person personally — and that's great.”