Execs of the 2017: Retail Industry Leaders Reveal How to Stay on the Cutting-Edge

Execs of the 2017: Retail Industry Leaders Reveal How to Stay on the Cutting-Edge

Risking often goes hand-in-hand with creativity. Progressive leaders blaze unknown trails to explore what’s on the horizon and adopt new strategies that often become standard practices for years to come.

XBIZ Premiere’s “Execs of the Year: The Year in Review” showcases the thoughts and strategies implemented by the forward-thinking executives that are driving the adult retail industry into the future.

Today, having a strong brand matters more than ever in B2B, and at Doc Johnson, the value of what the marketing organization brings to the company is embedded in everything we touch. -Chad Braverman, COO and CCO, Doc Johnson

Each of the executives we spoke to below is among the finalist nominees for the Progressive Leadership Award in the retail industry edition of the 2018 XBIZ Exec Awards.

How has your business evolved over the past year?

Adam Lewis
Co-Founder, Hot Octopuss

“As Hot Octopuss is still a relatively new player, we are evolving exceptionally quickly at the moment as we establish ourselves both in the industry and amongst our end consumers. We’ve been a two-product company for a few years now, but this is about to change, as we’ve spent a considerable amount of time and effort focusing on product development. You have already been witness to the launch of the Queen Bee, and we will shortly be releasing the Pocket Pulse and Pocket Pulse Remote along with two additional products before Valentine’s Day. In addition, we have been working hard on creating some fantastic POP for these new products. With regards to adapting to new trends, we kind of sit in our own little bubble here at HO and to be honest, have little time to pay attention to what’s happening outside.”

Alexandra Fine
Co-Founder and CEO, Dame Products

“Dame spent the year focusing on steady growth and product development. We always keep an eye on what’s new and exciting, because as the sex toy industry becomes more progressive and accessible, the next great idea is likely to become the next big thing. With that being said, we don’t like to adapt to trends. Rather, we do research directly with our community to learn what people want out of sex so that we can add value to their experiences. Real users’ feedback is the best compass for Dame’s quest to innovate; we let them lead the way.”

Chad Braverman
COO and CCO, Doc Johnson

“Today, having a strong brand matters more than ever in B2B, and at Doc Johnson, the value of what the marketing organization brings to the company is embedded in everything we touch. We spend much of our time thinking about how the landscape is changing and how we have to evolve our brand in the context of that landscape. 2017 has been one of our biggest years for multi-category growth — and our efforts in marketing have energized the Doc Johnson brand and brought the confidence for us to go ahead and be bolder in that direction. This year, we are at a different level in terms of where we hope to take the brand and where our marketing campaigns are going. Mainstream media coverage continues to be a major value driver for us, and the returns from our PR and media outreach are growing by the day as we continue to garner a high amount of new coverage and new eyeballs in outlets like Forbes, AskMen, Complex Magazine, Glamour and the Huffington Post. PR has definitely been a huge boon for us in increasing our brand equity and driving demand for our customers in a landscape where the pleasure products industry is becoming increasingly commoditized due to cheap knockoffs and imitations. Doc Johnson has also recently launched a new experiential campaign: the Pop Up Pleasure Machine, which features a sex toy vending machine designed as an Instagram-worthy installation that we are having pop up at different high-foot-traffic locations across the country to drive awareness and create in-person moments of connection with our customers.”

Chris Bakker
CEO, Eropartner Distribution

“The market has been very dynamic and has been changing very fast, especially the last five years. The products are changing and improving, from a design and technical point of view. We have always been a major supporter of newcomers entering the industry. The sales channels are changing, and the end-customer demands are getting bigger every day. As a B2B distributor, we have always been thinking very progressively and try to involve our customers and vendors with everything that could have a positive impact on their business. We have optimized our systems for maximum results and are using data to evaluate and improve our direction whenever needed. Flexibility is something that is and always will be important. One of our slogans has always been ‘Together, let’s make this year the best year yet.’”

Alicia Sinclair
Founder and CEO, COTR

“My business has evolved, grown and expanded in 2017. In addition to a year full of strong product releases for b-Vibe, I’ve introduced two new premium brands: Le Wand and The Cowgirl. COTR has evolved into to a collection of premium, quality, sex-positive products that represent innovation, modern consumer expectations, thoughtful product releases — and all heavily married to sexual education. We’ve continued to lead the charge in presenting our products through sex-positive, consumer-empowered marketing and branding and have developed incredibly strong relationships with retailers and distribution partners that have this same commitment.”

Ari Suss
CEO, XR Brands

“Evolution is essential for remaining relevant and on people’s radar, and this has been a core element of XR’s ongoing success. From an ecommerce perspective, we saw the continuation of the tech innovation trend — and we expect that brick-and-mortar stores are feeling the pressure of the advantages of online shopping. On the manufacturing side, we have seen growing competition due to reductions in barriers of entry, which in turn led to major market saturation. Social media platforms have provided entrepreneurs with a springboard to go head-to-head with Fortune 500 companies. As of recent, no one has done this better than Michael Dublin, founder of Dollar Shave Club. XR Brands is adapting to take advantage of these new technologies, including new ecommerce platforms, marketplace channels, influencer marketing and storytelling strategies. As for new product development, I am especially proud of XR Brands’ recent accomplishments and developments. XR Brands has expanded its offerings to encompass more variety and new tools designed for very specific sensations and experiences — an evolution that has allowed us to offer even more specialty items in ways that cater to a mainstream mindset. More and more customers are growing their fetish inventories as a result, and the team has worked hard to differentiate themselves from the competition.”

Toon Timmermans
CEO, Kiiroo

“The trends in the adult industry have progressed more and more towards app-controlled functionalities and interactive content. We, Kiiroo, are continuously innovating to pave the way for new technological advancements in the adult industry. As our team in Amsterdam grows, we are able to create products and services that allow us to stay relevant and ahead of our competition. Alongside this, our interactive technology has gone mainstream. Companies such as Pornhub, Ann Summers, We-Vibe and OhMibod have implemented our interactive technology in their devices and on their platforms. In doing so, we have opened a window for other companies to join the interactive revolution. Our technology continues to be received positively in this ever-changing landscape. Instead of adapting to other trends, we strive to set the trends that are not just a fad, but will be the future of the industry and the future of intimacy.”

Frederic Walme
CEO, Fun Factory

“This has been a year of both challenges and evolution. With the political climate and natural disasters that affected a few states, some of our partners reported a decline in foot traffic. In response, we’ve pushed relevant marketing schematics and brand awareness via promotions to ensure the best conversion rates. As the global online market has expanded, it has become increasingly important to protect pricing and brand identity. In line with our strategy of the past five years, Fun Factory has continued to enforce our MAP policy, to protect margins and exclusivity across the board and preserve strong, fair partnerships. This year, Fun Factory again brought new technology to the market. The Stronic G, our latest release, is slimmer, lighter, equally powerful, and specifically designed for G-spot stimulation. We also launched the Fun Cup, expanding our sexual wellness category. We can’t wait to show you what 2018 has in store.”

Autumn O'Bryan
COO, Topco Sales

“Topco Sales was once the industry’s trend setter, having developed the first-ever realistic skin-like material famously known as CyberSkin and many other original products and materials that helped steer entire categories. We retook those reins this year in the cosmetics and masturbator categories. There was a major trend toward private label lubricants and topicals, and Topco Sales’ U.S.-based lab made it easy to offer new brand-building opportunities for customers. The stroker and masturbator categories exploded this year — and thanks to CyberSkin’s lasting legacy, we were able to develop new iterations that provided more ways to experience this lifelike material in accessible and pleasurable ways. 2017 was a big year for Topco Sales; the initial results from our campaign dedicated to earning trust, rebuilding relationships, and reestablishing Topco Sales as a leading manufacturer started building momentum at the start of the year. And as the months went by, we were able to measure true progress. We successfully took this company’s historic legacy and built onto it a brand-new reputation based on merit, transparency and follow-through, and we are excited and ready to start the next chapter in 2018.”

Robert Pyne, Jr.
President and CEO, Williams Trading Co.

“By far, Williams Trading University being able to provide streamlined learning content 24/7 to our store owners has been extremely successful. We have the ability to provide specialized adult training and selling content in synch with today’s learners on the smartphone, iPad or Android phones. Our most effective marketing platform for reaching our customers is continued support with e-learning programs from WTU University. Each course offers features and benefits and also focuses on in-store selling techniques. Free premiums are also rewarded upon the completion of each e-learning course, which allows the store’s associate to test and sample the product and become a first-hand advocate of each specific product. To date, we have certified over 60,000 associates that have completed a vendor course and certified with a diploma. Our e-learning program features over 88 learning modules with continued partnership and support from our vendor community. We will be expanding this program platform during 2018, offering unique offers for our wholesale dealers as we remain the leader in the first adult e-learning program in the industry.”