Execs of the 2017: Retail Industry Businesswomen Discuss Top Business Drivers

Execs of the 2017: Retail Industry Businesswomen Discuss Top Business Drivers

The adult retail industry has always been ripe for entrepreneurs with the right stuff — courage, ambition and drive to build or lead a thriving business.

As part of XBIZ Premiere’s “Execs of the Year: The Year in Review,” the adult retail industry’s most prolific businesswomen share their thoughts on the top business trends of the year.

The industry is becoming more competitive, and to stay ahead, we must keep ourselves, our products and our brand in front of our customers. With that, 2017 has been dedicated to traveling and educating. -Jackie White, Executive Vice President, CalExotics

The XBIZ Exec Businesswoman of the Year Award celebrates one extraordinary woman who encompasses all of the needed traits, has demonstrated leadership that’s above and beyond in every challenge. Each of the executives we spoke to below is among the finalist nominees for Businesswoman of the Year in the retail industry edition of the 2018 XBIZ Exec Awards.

What industry trends, innovations motivated you the most this year?

Bethann Smith
Director of Purchasing and Co-Owner, Williams Trading Co.

“The most unique industry trends are coming from newcomers to the market from the non-adult segment. We have seen very good success from Dame Products with the Eva and Fin. These new products were designed with the female consumer in mind, and the Dame product development team took the time to market-research the consumer for features and use. With a very crowded space of adult toys, it takes time for a brand to truly innovate and offer a unique product that solves a problem for the consumer. We also see unique innovation in the new Jimmyjane range of products with re-developed industrial design and form factors that are appealing to women. Cloud 9 Novelties has been innovative with high-end packaging and features with the new Air Touch series with clitoral stimulation. From a motivational standpoint, sales velocity and retail turns motivate me the most. The true measurement of success is ongoing re-orders at the retail level, supported with in-stock inventory from the distributors. We collaborate with our suppliers and measure sell-through to our dealers constantly to maintain our in-stock fulfillment percentages over 95 percent. Efficient shipping, combined with our quick shipment programs, sets Williams Trading apart from our competitors.”

Wanda Garland
CEO, Eldorado Trading Company

“The retail landscape continues to change, with heavy competition from the online market space — and traditional channels are feeling the pressure more than ever to set themselves apart. These challenges have motivated me to guide Eldorado in a direction that supports traditional retailers in ways that allow them to succeed. Eldorado is blazing a path to help give brick-and-mortar stores a competitive edge by offering innovative solutions that focus on education. There is no substitute for the experience of walking into a store and interacting with a knowledgeable person when searching for intimate products. I am also motivated by innovation outside of our industry. Eldorado continually looks to all sources for best practices and technologies that we can adopt to increase our competitive edge. For example, our wireless warehouse allows for unparalleled speed and accuracy in our operations — and as a bonus, it saves a few trees along the way.”

Jackie White
Executive Vice President, CalExotics

“The industry is becoming more competitive, and to stay ahead, we must keep ourselves, our products and our brand in front of our customers. With that, 2017 has been dedicated to traveling and educating. My team and I traveled across the globe to get in front of our customers and retailers to educate them about the latest products and sales tools CalExotics has to offer. This face-to-face interaction helps give life to the brand and creates a real relationship with the customer.”

Janine Weisberg
Co-Founder, Warm

“My biggest motivation came from the increase in woman-developed products and female founders. The industry is definitely including — even highlighting — the feminine narrative around sexuality. Seeing more marketing and products being created that embrace and celebrate the full spectrum of arousal — mind, body and even spirit — definitely excited me and motivated me to reach even higher in my quest to Warm up the world. All the exciting innovations coming from like-minded female-powered companies have made this year feel like I am in exactly the right place at the right time. The biggest trend of 2017 has definitely been encompassing the power of women’s sexual desires.”

Julie Stewart
President, Sportsheets International

“One of the biggest trends that we have been paying attention to is the increase in frauds on the Internet, in stores, and through other channels as well as the over-duplication of product in the market. This has helped us look inward at the value of our own brands. For almost 25 years, we have been the industry leader in our niche — and this lower level competition has confirmed that we are still an industry leader with uniqueness and quality. And we stand behind our product. For us, it’s about quality, not quantity.”

Rianne Swierstra
CEO, Rianne S.

“I am not motivated by any industry trends. I am much more motivated by doing things different; so, I especially look at other industries rather than our own. I think in order to be different, you need to have an open mind and find inspiration in everything. That’s my real motivation: to be different and to obviously empower women and their partners through my products. To be different can be, in my opinion, on multiple levels: on a brand level, packaging level and product level. Most important for me is to remember that I am not in this business for myself; I don’t design products for myself. All that matters is a happy customer whose life is a little better because of a fantastic product.”

Stephanie Berman
CEO, Berman Innovations

“I can’t say there has been one specific trend or innovation that has motivated me most; however, all of the incredible women that are creating and launching new products is my true motivation. As a businessperson, entrepreneur and consumer, it’s incredible to see women becoming the future of our industry. If anything continues to motivate me, it’s that.”

Suki Denham
Founder, Ohmibod

“As it refers to innovations and trends, I’m super passionate about what we refer to as the future of intimacy. Just a month ago, we officially announced our partnership with Kiiroo on the development and release of a new interactive dual stimulation toy called Fuse. The possibilities for remote intimacy are exciting. Our close partnership with Kiiroo allows us to create truly unique interactive experiences with new bi-directional control features such as the tickler on Fuse being used to control the stroke length on the Fleshlight Launch, powered by Kiiroo. We see that the continued integration of sex and tech will allow for thrilling innovations to come.”

Bonnie Feingold
President and CEO, Honey's Place

“Our industry is changing very rapidly. When I started in this industry 15 years ago, I was one of the few women in a male-dominated industry. Since then, there have been more women who are at every level in our adult novelty industry. Because of these intelligent and empowering women, there has been a major shift in our industry in the quality, the branding and marketing, the product awareness and the education of the products. This year, the affordable luxury product category has continued to grow substantially. Our customers are looking for manufacturers that offer high quality, have an innovative product selection — all at an affordable price point. At the store level, retailers are looking for new and innovative products to add to their store’s shelves. They want products that will stand out on the shelf so that their customers will be immediately drawn to that product; we strive to stock these products so that we can stay current with these trends. Technology is another trend that is becoming more and more popular in the sex toy industry. These unique pleasure products are controlled by either an iPhone or Android app. Their app experience can combine music or gaming features that can unlock new features with continuous use. I believe we will continue to see more innovation with these types of products moving forward.”

Polly Rodriguez
CEO and Co-Founder, Unbound

“This year, I was most motivated by the attack on access to reproductive health for women and how we could support organizations like Planned Parenthood through marketing initiatives. This resonated with our customer base as well.”