Keeping Brick-and-Mortar Alive

LAS VEGAS – The final business seminar of the 2008 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, “More Than Window Shopping: Reinforcing Brick-and-Mortar,” tackled the ever-growing concern over how to make traditional brick-and-mortar outlets continue to thrive.

Moderated by Frank Lucca, executive director of the Independent Dealers of Entertainment Association (IDEA), the panel featured West Coast Video’s Mark Jasperson, IVD’s Kim Sedergran, Babeland’s Rachel Venning and, for a curtailed time, Nick Manning of defunct store LA Exotique.

Lucca conducted the seminar as open discussion, addressing a series of topics including store layout, security, purchasing, sell-through vs. rental, customer service and online vs. physical outlets.

A recurrent theme was the shift throughout the adult retail industry toward upscale, women-friendly presentation.

“Stores are getting cleaner, nicer and prettier,” said Sedergran. “Gone are the days of the dirty old men in raincoats and the scummy peep booths.”

Added Jasperson, “We’re taking that black stuff off the windows and opening them up.”

Manning said while his store was open, people frequently commented about “what a nice store you’ve built here.”

At the same time, Sedergran noted that one of the biggest dilemmas facing brick-and-mortars these days is whether to keep offering booths and theaters on their premises. Said Sedergran, “Theater money is pure profit. DVD sales are declining and theaters are still doing well, but it’s hard to pull in women and couples if you have them.”

Another big topic of discussion was the critical importance of product knowledge to every aspect of a retailing operation. Both Jasperson and Venning stressed that their buyers are passionate enthusiasts of the movies and/or toys they purchase for them, and the same is true of their salespeople.

Venning said that Babeland employees “test everything … it’s like a connoisseur environment.”

This galvanizes customer service as well, she said, because employees feel they’re empowering people sexually, and that’s a positive mission as much as it is a sales job.

“We won an award for best customer service in New York,” she boasted, “which is a pretty wonderful thing because New York is a big city, and we’re an adult store.”

The look of a store, of course, is more important than ever, all agreed, and just the way a product is shelved can boost its sales. Venning recommended a book called “Why We Buy” to anybody planning a redesign of their store, and there was some extended discussion of whether DVDs should be shelved flat-face or spined. Jasperson said new releases should without exception be presented flat-face, but spining was OK for sale titles.

He and Sedergran both stressed adamantly that price points should never be dropped on high end product, because it has a snowball cheapening effect. At the point a title is no longer turning, Jasperson said, West Coast liquidates it. He also maintains a strict policy that a title must turn 12 times within six months to be considered viable, and that any studio which doesn’t meet that criteria is dropped.

On the looming point of having an online vs. a brick-and-mortar presence, all asserted that being online is mandatory, and it should be something that complements the physical store in both informational and sales terms.

Adult retailing, the overall message seemed to be, is at its core the same as any other type of retailing, and can flourish using the same tactics. Sites recommended by moderator Lucca for more tips on the matter are: and