Retailers: Diversify to Maximize

Arguably the cultural buzzword of the ’90s, “diversity” was also the theme of the Friday afternoon AEE seminar for retailers, “Something for Everyone - Genres and Niches.”

“If you’re only stocking for yourself, you’re missing a whole lot of customers,” moderator and AVN senior associate editor Heidi Pike Joy warned the assembled retailers.

Seminar panelists were Skye Blue of Platinum Blue Productions, Joy King of Wicked Pictures, Christian Mann of Video Team, Bill Rixt of Elegant Angel, Kim Sedergran of distribution company IVD, Erik Schut of TLA Video, Jeff Steward of JM Productions and Lex Steele of Mercenary Pictures.

Mann echoed Pike Joy’s sentiment. “We hear from retailers in [the Midwest], ‘We don’t do well with black product; we’re not Detroit or Chicago,’” he said. “But you cannot sell to your customers what you don’t have in your stores. When people say, ‘We don’t have gay customers,’ I ask, ‘Well, do you [stock] any gay videos? [If the answer’s no, then] maybe that’s why.”

King said that Wicked has done surveys that found that, surprisingly, many consumers say they don’t even know what kind of porn they prefer.

“They don’t know what they like until they see it,” she said simply.

Panelists also gave the retailers in attendance advice about not only what to stock but how to move it. Schut pointed out that the studios themselves know their product better than anyone and could provide invaluable tips to retailers if they call the studios and ask for them.

“You might even get the producer or director on the horn,” he said. “It can open your eyes and really help.” King also had promotional advice for seminar attendees. “If you do a signing, make sure you advertise and promote it well,” she said. “If a girl shows up and sees that her name is spelled wrong on the sign, she’s not going to feel very good about being there. [Or] if she’s standing around not doing anything because it wasn’t promoted well, it’s not going to help you.”

Skye Blue told retailers that one way to combat Internet sales from cutting into their business is to make sure they are able to sell to 100 percent of their potential customers, which for one thing, means not ignoring a burgeoning new consumer market: women.

“You need to figure out how you can sell to more women and couples,” she said. “The women’s market is a very untapped market.” King agreed, and praised Theresa Flynt’s vision and success with the Hustler stores. “They’re clean and look great and sell lotion and candles and gifts – it’s not just about who’s fisting who this week,” she said. “Make it a pleasant experience for the consumer.”

Lexington Steele, who is directing for a new Mercenary line called Black Viking, added that retailers need to try to keep abreast of what’s going to be hot in the future, not just now, offering reverse interracial – white men with ethnic women – themed movies as an example.

In the flooded adult market, he said, “Customers are going to be looking for something new. If you are aware of what’s happening next, that’ll give you a heads up on your competition.” Steele also hammered home the importance of stocking quality films, even though those movies cost significantly more than lesser-quality releases.

“What happens when stores are saturated with mediocre product is that the customer is duped into thinking that mediocrity is the norm,” he said. “There needs to be a return to an adherence to quality.” Schut agreed, adding, “With stuff being bootlegged on the Internet, the consumer wants to feel really good about what they bought.”

Schut offered Titan’s Horse as an example of a high-priced but extremely well-packaged release that did very well. “It’s a five-disc set with an embossed cover that looks great. [At $129] it’s never gone on sale, and it’s been huge.” Some retailers, however, balked at the idea that spending $15 to $80 more per film would help them make more money. A retailer from Texas protested, “Some customers just want a cheap thrill.”

Another store owner in the front row told those assembled, however, that stocking higher-priced, better quality product helped her triple her business in one year. “You have to go with the expensive stuff,” she said. Another suggestion from panelists was for store owners to create a “must have” section of 15 to 50 titles that consistently sell well and to keep it well stocked, as opposed to indiscriminately stocking as many new releases as possible.

“If something explodes off your shelves, bring in older stuff,” in the same line or by the same company, Schut suggested. “If you just order all new releases, you confuse your customer.” Overall, the panelists’ message was for retailers to be as smart and discriminating as they can be in stocking their stores and to aim for quality, diverse offerings. Or in other words, approach product with common sense. “There are some titles a store should never be out of,” Kim Sedergran of IVD said. “A customer should never walk into a store and not be able to find Deep Throat.”