Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.
Kristen Denton is one of the hardest working people in the pleasure products arena today. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but Denton has racked up 20 years of industry experience and is quite fluent in all sides of the business. Denton has been with Doc Johnson since 2010. XBIZ Premiere had an opportunity to sit down with Denton to talk business, trends and life.
We love grand openings, we’ll provide goodies – we really just want to get in there and do what we can to support you. We love when a customer calls and says that they’ve got some space and asks what we can do to help them out.
XBIZ: Let’s get started – all right, so where are you from?
Kristen Denton: I’m originally from Detroit, but I’ve been in California for 30 years.
XBIZ: Do you still get back to Detroit pretty often?
Denton: I do, every time I possibly can.
XBIZ: How and when did you get started in the adult business?
Denton: In 1994. I was about a year out of high school and I answered an ad in the paper for a receptionist at an adult company. The company was New Beginnings and the rest is history.
XBIZ: Please tell us about New Beginnings for those who don’t know…
Denton: New Beginnings was a distributor in the San Fernando Valley. They were one of the biggest distributors during that time. It was a great learning experience, a great place to work. It’s really where I got a lot of the knowledge I still use today.
XBIZ: Did they only distribute video?
Denton: Video and novelty.
XBIZ: Are they still around?
Denton: No, they’re not.
XBIZ: I know you have some friends you met there, are they still in the industry?
Denton: Yes. There are some of us floating around from the original New Beginnings crew.
XBIZ: Which people have had the greatest impact on your life or your career?
Denton: The person I’d have to say the most is my husband because without him I wouldn’t be able to have my career or do anything I do. He’s made countless sacrifices so that I can continue to travel and pursue my career.
XBIZ: Take us through a typical week in the life of Kristen Denton, Doc Johnson account executive…
Denton: Most of my time is spent supporting my customers’ success. So during the week that means company meetings, email follow-ups, calls and travel planning – those tasks consume a large part of my week. When I’m traveling, the focus changes to trade shows, customer presentations, customer meetings, trainings and product education.
XBIZ: When you say you’re focused on generating success for your customer, how else is that done other than store presentations – what other resources do you have available?
Denton: Really just working with each individual customer to find out what’s best for them and their store – we use marketing plans, our visual merchandiser, merchandising in stores – really, any way we can get in and help support that customer, we do. And we do everything on a customer-by-customer basis because every customer is different.
XBIZ: That’s good to know. Let’s say a big retail store reaches out and says, “We have X amount of space in the store, we’d love to create a display – can you help us put that together?”
Denton: Absolutely! That’s what we strive for. We utilize our visual merchandiser for creating planograms and customized wall skins specifically for your store that will generate business. We love grand openings, we’ll provide goodies – we really just want to get in there and do what we can to support you. We love when a customer calls and says that they’ve got some space and asks what we can do to help them out. That really gives us a chance to get in there, get creative and merchandise the products that we know will prove to be successful for that customer.
XBIZ: How much time do you spend traveling? How many weeks out of the year?
Denton: On an average it comes out to about one-to-two weeks per month. A heavy month is two weeks. A light month is one.
XBIZ: What’s the best part of being an industry road warrior?
Denton: Definitely my customers. Being able to spend time with my amazing customers is huge for me – I truly look forward to and enjoy every trip. Visiting stores and speaking with store clerks is also a great opportunity for me to get that crucial feedback. That’s where we really get to see and hear first-hand what’s going on with the consumer and what kinds of questions they’re asking.
XBIZ: And the worst part?
Denton: The worst part is being away from my family, which can be a challenge at times.
XBIZ: I can only imagine, but we all sure do appreciate it. Now you’ve been on the manufacturing side for several years – are you involved in the product development process? How does that work?
Denton: Doc Johnson’s philosophy is ‘every idea is heard.’ We’re all encouraged to contribute, and we do - and ideas kind of come from everywhere around here.
XBIZ: What is your biggest challenge as a manufacturer?
Denton: I think for us, our biggest challenge is just remaining American made. We take a lot of pride in the fact that we’re able to provide fair wages to our hundreds of employees while still maintaining a fair price point to consumers. For Doc Johnson, supporting the country and the community is very important to us as a company.
XBIZ: As we all know, so much of our industry’s products are made in China and now we’re seeing a lot of these Chinese manufacturers coming to US trade shows – how does that impact what you guys are doing?
Denton: Well, we remain committed to keeping operations domestic because that’s how Doc Johnson does business. Yes, we do have a significant amount of overhead because of the type of company we are -- but we’ve definitely found a way to maintain that to keep those jobs here and keep those products being made here. While the temptation to import products at a crazy low price is always there, for us, that’s not our first priority.
XBIZ: Where do you see the industry in the next 5 years?
Denton: I think I see the industry definitely trending more towards sophisticated products and futuristic technology. Lots of the products you see coming to the marketplace now are utilizing far more advanced technology.
XBIZ: Here’s a phrase we hear a lot: ‘the mainstreaming of adult products.’ Do you think this will be a negative for a company like Doc Johnson?
Denton: For us we don’t feel it will. We feel the mainstream effect is only going to make our audience bigger and our brand more recognizable. So we don’t fear that, we think it’s a good thing.
XBIZ: Fifty Shades of Grey – This has been a boon to the industry, although some people will say ‘not exactly.’ I’m just wondering from a manufacturer’s perspective, how significant is it, and how long will it last in your opinion?
Denton: When things first started it was extremely significant. I mean, we couldn’t even keep a Ben Wa ball in stock. I think with any pop culture sensation there’s going to be an expiration period. With this, I think the release of the movie is really going to determine when that expiration period will be.
XBIZ: Are you seeing new Fifty Shades of Grey customers/adult shopping first-timers being converted into repeat customers or are they just 1-time shoppers?
Denton: We do. Definitely the best part about of Fifty Shades of Grey is that it exposed customers to the adult market who maybe wouldn’t have been exposed. We truly feel many of those customers will remain customers for life.
XBIZ: What do you think the pleasure products business can learn from the adult video side of the industry?
Denton: That fans and customers are brand loyal.
XBIZ: Some personal stuff now. Share 3 things on your bucket list...
Denton: Well, I really don’t have a bucket list, but I’ve always wanted to hold a baby chimpanzee.
XBIZ: Okay -- holding a baby chimp. Next: favorite place in the world to eat?
Denton: Anywhere in the world? That’s a tough one – probably my favorite restaurant is in Puerto Rico called Niche. Very small, it only seats about 20 people and it is amazing. In Las Vegas, I like to go to the Sugar Factory. That’s my favorite place there, something about it.
XBIZ: That’s the place with the giant drinks?
Denton: Yes. Yes it is.
XBIZ: Do you have a favorite hometown spot you go to with the family?
Denton: I absolutely do, it’s called Frankenmuth in Michigan. It’s a Bavarian town known for their food, festivals and shopping. I try to go there every time I’m home.
XBIZ: Any disasters or humiliating experiences you’d like to share with the class?
Denton: The one thing that sticks out is my first product presentation. I’ve been really lucky, but my first presentation was rocky to say the least. I stepped in at the last moment for a sick colleague and everything seemed to go wrong from beginning to end. But I did learn a lot of lessons, so probably a blessing in disguise.
XBIZ: Great, thanks so much for taking the time Kristen!
Denton: You’re very welcome! Thank you!