Execs of 2015: Retail Industry Businessmen Discuss Top Business Drivers

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.

The continued messaging to the consumer and the general softening of men’s attitudes for using male pleasure products is allowing us to develop exciting products with less concern on qualifying it as gay or straight. -Steve Callow, Perfect Fit Brand

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 Businessman Of The Year:

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

Steve Bannister
President, BMS Factory

“In the past few years, there have been a lot of new technologies introduced to the sex toy market: apps used on your smartphone that can control your vibrator, the inner mechanics and ways a toy can be powered, the shift towards USB — the list goes on. The common mentality for us year after year has been to continue innovating to bring to market new and exciting products that earn their place in a shop. We started with being the first company to make a collection that had a virtually seamless, 100 percent silicone finish, and we continue to be the best at it year after year. Since we are also known for our super-powered products, I spend a lot of time speaking with engineers to constantly increase and fine-tune our vibrations. And we’ve become very good at it.”

Steve Callow
CEO, Perfect Fit Brand

“We see more and more tier-one manufacturers investing in their male brands, and this is great news for us. The continued messaging to the consumer and the general softening of men’s attitudes for using male pleasure products is allowing us to develop exciting products with less concern on qualifying it as gay or straight. I also love the continued rise in popularity of sex toy testers and sex educators and training programs originating from retailers and distributors. Ultimately, with unusual-looking but high-performing products like ours, we benefit incredibly from the work of these individuals, organizations and companies.”

Bob Christian
General Manager, Adam & Eve

“For Adam & Eve, the most influential trends this year have been: (1) the growth in the pleasure products sales and product diversity, including an increase in higher priced products. Customers are buying. We are selling more. (2) The growth of the market for adult products of all types. At this point, it is not directly connected to the ‘Fifty Shades’ phenomenon; nevertheless, mainstream media coverage of adult products and the number of new customers continue to be increasing. And (3) Google search and site labeling rules keep evolving, and we keep changing and responding both reactively and proactively to make better use of them.”

Howard Levine
Founder, Exile Distribution

“2015 was an exceptional year for Exile Distribution and myself. With the continued success of the Forbidden Fruits Films line and some new acquisitions, we saw our numbers go up from last year. It is always particularly gratifying to take on a new line, give it a new face and watch it grow. That is what happened with Forbidden Fruits three years ago, and that is the same thing that happened with Severe Sex this year. Before I was distributing Severe Sex, it was called Severe Sex Society. They were selling around 100 DVDs per title and making most of their money online. We dropped the ‘Society’ and redesigned the box art with the help of Scott Lau. The titles took off from the very first one. Now, we do around 1,000 of a number and have expanded into broadcast as well as online sales.”

President, Girlfriends Films

“Operating with ethics and integrity and emphasizing quality, customer service and philanthropy are the business guidelines we adhere to year after year at Girlfriends Films. I suppose that’s not an industry trend per se, but it should be. Trends do change, however, so we work to stay prepared and respond to ensure we are never simply reacting. When piracy threatened our business, we stayed ahead of the game using the most technologically advanced services and programs like Takedown Piracy’s digital fingerprinting tool. When DVD sales began to slump, we improved relations with the territories that were still doing a booming DVD business. And when the industry needed a strong ethical distributor for those DVDs, we were ready to fill those shoes. Looking past DVDs as the delivery methods shifted more and more to streaming and on-demand services, we were ready with our own cable channels catering to the demand for all-girl content.”

Ari Suss
CEO, XR Brands

“XR Brands is known for identifying niche needs and fulfilling them with fully merchandised, branded and beautifully packaged product lines, and one of our most influential innovations has been with high-technology sex toys. Our focus was on orgasms and how to intensify them through various sensations and stimulation methods not currently common on the market, which led to the creation of several advanced love and sex-simulation machines from Lovebotz. These machines have set XR Brands apart from the tech-focused competition and even helped lighten the hardcore taboo that sex machines once carried. Most notable are the Milker and Rodeo Rider, two unique machines recently debuted to retailers. Conventional auto-strokers provide a cushioned tube that moves in a traditional up-and-down motion meant to emulate specific sex acts, but the Milker features a thin silicone tube encased in an ABS plastic cylinder that, when activated, simultaneously sucks and softly strokes the user.”

Steve Volponi
Director of Sales, Devil's Film

“I kind of feel that a lot of times, we’re on the forefront of trending genres and packaging concepts. I think being creatively fresh has kept us a step ahead of some and made others swing what they are making to mimic some of what we do, but in their own way.”

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