“If it isn’t broken, why fix it?”

Matthew Matsudaira (Pipedream) and Oscar Heijnen (SHOTS) discuss the successful collaboration between their two companies – a collaboration which has already lasted ten years. They also draw some general conclusions about the complex relationship between producers and distributors.

When you took over the helm at Pipedream in May 2018, the distribution agreement between SHOTS and Pipedream had already been in place since 2010. What made you decide to continue this cooperation?
Matthew Matsudaira: Pipedream has been working with SHOTS for a decade with consistent growth and success, so we had every reason to continue our partnership! There’s a strong connection with our business goals and market approach. When I took over as Pipedream CEO, I knew the best way to move forward was to evaluate what was working well and what could use some adjustment, and that’s how we’ve done business ever since. Since we started working together, we have more than doubled our business with SHOTS and fortified our relationship in lasting ways.

Which strengths do you see in SHOTS?
Matthew Matsudaira: SHOTS is a leading distributor in Europe and their customer relationships and sales strategies are strong and successful. Pipedream is one of the few brands that has grown with SHOTS year after year, and we attribute that to our product quality and demand matched with SHOTS’ business strategy. There’s chemistry there, and Oscar and the SHOTS team has consistently cultivated it and delivered on our agreements.

How would you describe the collaboration with SHOTS?
Matthew Matsudaira: I would describe our collaboration as loyal, successful, and consistently growing. The results are measurable and impressive, and we cooperate well together; we specialise in top-quality in-demand products and SHOTS specialises in fast and dependable distribution, so it’s been a no-brainer match since Day 1.

I have tremendous respect for Oscar and our business goals have clicked quite well. Pipedream is SHOTS’s largest and best-selling brand partner and we have his smart strategy and keen understanding of the European adult market to thank for that continued growth.

“Pipedream is SHOTS’s largest and best-selling brand partner and we have his smart strategy and keen understanding of the European adult market to thank for that continued growth.” – Matthew Matsudaira

What factors are important for Pipedream when choosing distributors and wholesalers?
Matthew Matsudaira: Pipedream looks for a distribution partner who is committed to supporting and growing the Pipedream brand. We look for distributors who partner with Pipedream on our go-to-market strategy, prioritise Pipedream in their assortment offering, and protect the Pipedream brand from brand degradation.

Will your strategy to cooperate with several distributors and wholesalers in Europe be continued in the future or are there changes to be made?
Matthew Matsudaira: Part of our business strategy is to not reveal future growth and development plans until they have been made public, so I have no comment.

There is much discussion about the pros and cons of exclusive distribution. What is your opinion on this topic?
Matthew Matsudaira: I don’t have an opinion on exclusive distribution.

How important is Europe for Pipedream?
Matthew Matsudaira: Pipedream is possibly the largest manufacturing brand in Europe, so needless to say Europe is a huge priority for us. We value our retail presence, and the support and enthusiasm we’ve garnered from stores across the region has been a tremendous benefit to us, especially during my first few months as CEO. We look forward to working even closer with our European partners this year.

“Pipedream is possibly the largest manufacturing brand in Europe, so needless to say Europe is a huge priority for us.” – Matthew Matsudaira

Will your very close cooperation with SHOTS continue in the future? Will it perhaps even be expanded?
Matthew Matsudaira: Our current partnership is stable and more than satisfactory, and we will continue to evaluate and develop strategies for continued success in the future.

What are Pipedream’s plans for the European market this year and what role will your distributors play in this?
Matthew Matsudaira: I cannot comment on future plans for our European growth and distribution. When we make our plans public, you’ll be one of the first to hear!

SHOTS has been selling Pipedream products since the beginning of 2010. When you look back, would you say it was a successful time?
Oscar Heijnen: SHOTS and Pipedream have been working together for 10 (!!) years this year. How cool is that! This year, SHOTS is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and we have been working with Pipedream for almost half of that time, so it’s time for a celebration of this successful partnership.

Looking back, Pipedream is one of the few brands that has grown for us every year. In general, this growth can be traced back to the release of fantastic products, but the success can also be attributed to the chemistry between our companies and the people behind it. Ultimately, the click between people is the most important thing and it shows!

In the summer of 2010, you decided to carry the complete Pipedream range. A wise decision or a logistical nightmare?
Oscar Heijnen: Initially, it wasn’t our intention to become a ‘real’ distributor, it happened due to our clientele having an enormous demand for Pipedream products as other distributors had little or no stock at all. We saw an opportunity, and now 10 years later, we’ve had huge success and Pipedream has become our largest and best-selling distribution partner. In the beginning, it was, to a large extent, a nightmare, because of their extensive range of products. With products flying out as soon as they came in, it resulted in us having to extend our warehouse(s). We started with an extension of the existing warehouse by adding 1000 square metres and a few years later, we built a brand-new 2500 square metre warehouse next door. It was a ‘problem’ but a ‘luxury problem’ that came with a cost; still, it was well worth it.

In an interview with EAN that same year, you predicted that Pipedream could take a leading position in your third-party brand assortment. Did that come true?
Oscar Heijnen: Absolutely!! No other brand in the last 10 years has managed to capture a larger share in the European market than Pipedream. It is nice to look back to see that our predictions came true. Our plans often succeed, and this one was certainly 100% successful.

And how would you describe your collaboration with Pipedream over the years? Have both parties done their utmost for mutual success?
Oscar Heijnen: From our side, we are very satisfied. We grow every year and we work together very closely in developing new plans and events, such as moving the SHOTS trade show and party to Ibiza! Without a doubt, Pipedream is – and has been for years – the largest partner and sole sponsor of the event. We are very grateful for that, because without the support of Pipedream, events such as the SHOTS parties, past and also future ones, would not be so successful. Thanks to the support of Pipedream and our other smaller partners, we can organise these cool, unforgettable events.

Has the interaction between distributor and supplier changed fundamentally over the last ten years? And what is important in today’s market for a successful partnership between supplier and distributor?
Oscar Heijnen: No, I think the relationship we have built up is very stable. I am in LA regularly for SHOTS America, so we get together frequently, which makes it easier to exchange ideas or come up with new promotions. I think many other brands could follow the example of Pipedream. There is a lot of mutual respect and almost all joint activities have been successful which of course makes things a lot easier. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?

We all have seen the traditional supply chain come further and further apart over the years. Has the distribution business suffered particularly badly from this?
Oscar Heijnen: We are just trying to stick to the current model, and I think we have mastered it very well. The brands with which we partner also respect this model. That does not alter the fact that prices are under pressure, because sometimes there is more than one distributor of a brand, and it is very difficult to live from distribution alone. The prices in distribution are currently the lowest ever, and the retailers can take advantage of this.

Our business model as it stands today is, I think, one of the strongest in the market. Maybe we can even call ourselves market leaders, but I would like to leave that assessment to someone else.

In May 2018, Matthew Matsudaira took over as CEO of Pipedream and brought about many changes. How did you experience this as a distributor?
Oscar Heijnen: I can only praise Matthew’s work, he is a team player who values his partners and is open to all opinions. Matthew has more than doubled the business with us and turned a strong relationship into an unbreakable one. He is tech-driven and makes decisions on data, so he is talking our language. But it’s not only Matthew, it’s also the team around him that makes a difference. Brianna Watkins is somebody who we should also say ‘thank you’ to, because she is the one who travels and talks to our customers to make a difference. Alongside these two we should not forget the dedicated team around them. From logistics to the office team, they are all great hard-working people who help with any questions or ideas that my team comes up with.

Has SHOTS as a distributor been involved in this process of change? How long did it take you to adapt to ‘the new Pipedream’?
Oscar Heijnen: To be honest, I don’t think we noticed a lot. The people with whom we collaborated closely then are still there today. When I look at the results, cooperation, and implementation, things have only improved. As long as Pipedream continues to deliver beautiful, high-quality products, we are convinced that together we can grow even further in the future.

“As long as Pipedream continues to deliver beautiful, high-quality products, we are convinced that together we can grow even further in the future.” – Oscar Heijnen

What will happen with SHOTS and Pipedream in the future? For example, would exclusive distribution be something you could imagine as the next step of your cooperation?
Oscar Heijnen: That is a difficult question, if you ask me so directly. It’s also difficult to predict what the future will bring because the level at which we work together is almost at its highest point. We are certainly convinced that we will make each other better in the future, as we have done in the past, and that together we can conquer the market even more.

How important will the Pipedream brand be in your range in the future?
Oscar Heijnen: Pipedream is our number one in the distribution field, and we predict that this will not change anytime soon. It is actually the largest brand in the world, and I don’t see anyone changing that, but of course I don’t have a crystal ball.

And what are SHOTS and Pipedream’s plans for supporting the retail trade / your customers?
Oscar Heijnen: What we have done in the past is build a custom-made plan per client, per store, and per online store. We build that plan together with the customer, so there is a triangular relationship between us, the client, and the supplier. We want to further expand these relationships because the customers see fantastic results in their sales, which only gives us more confidence for the future. I am happy and proud that we can call ourselves a Pipedream distributor.