First and foremost, this is an interview about the activities and developments in today’s British adult retail trade, but with the kick off of the European Football Championship just a few days away, EAN felt compelled to address that topic as well when we interviewed football fan Simon Prescott.
There is no way around it: First, we need to discuss football. How satisfied are you as a loyal FC Liverpool supporter with their new trainer, Jürgen ‘The Normal One’ Klopp?
Simon Prescott: Watching Liverpool can at times be like supporting two different teams. They are either good or brilliant. When they are brilliant, I truly believe they can beat anyone on their day. The recent come back from a two goal deficit, or simply the way we played at home in the semi-final. Most teams find it difficult to play against a high pressure, where we hunt in packs to regain possession.
That is all down to Klopp, like he played at Dortmund and I am a fan. I am even more of a fan of the team spirit. The way they play for each other, pull together for a common goal. I am a huge advocate of team work, either on the pitch or in one of our stores. There is no substitute for well trained personnel, who know exactly what is expected of them and are motivated to achieve a shared goal. Klopp and well run business’s deliver that!
What do you think, who will win the European Championship?
England, of course. I think we have the players, the confidence and the methodology. But most of all we have the desire.
Let’s talk business: how is the UK erotic trade doing, and how is it currently going for Nice n Naughty?
We live in a very competitive world. A world in which online shopping has almost become a way of life yet a world in which there is a strong demand for adult products, as the nature of the goods continues to be more socially acceptable.
Against that backdrop Nice n Naughty’s performance continues to excite and we have just had another very good trading year and a reasonable increase in profits.
What trends distinguish the British erotic retail? What are you customers looking for when they come into your shops?
There are no new trends to speak of. It’s just more of the same. They are buying the same core products as always, but they are now a little better informed or if they lack information, are no longer afraid to ask for it.
What they really want when they come in our store, apart from a welcoming, relaxed environment, is to know that there are professional, helpful, staff on hand, with a huge amount of product knowledge, to ensure they make the right purchase. They want to trust our staff and know we are more interested in providing solutions than pushing products.
In earlier interviews for EAN, you mentioned the problem of the decrease in walk-in customers on the high streets a few times – one of the biggest problems the erotic industry is facing, which probably still persists. What does Nice n Naughty do to combat this problem?
The internet is pervasive. It reaches so many people, so easily and almost anyone can find a ‘deal’ somewhere. So trying to compete on price in a bricks and mortar business is not the answer. Of course we have to be competitive but we need to offer so much more than price.
Customers need to be able to see and touch physical goods, get great advice, shop a wide range and have fun in the store. We frequently have clients laughing and joking with our staff. It’s hard to do that online.
Due to the often propagated change of the erotic business towards the mainstream, the problem with the loss of walk-in customers should be counterbalanced by the high number of new potential customers?
In theory yes. But of course it only works if you have created an environment that these new customers want to visit. Somewhere they feel comfortable. The likes of Fifty Shades may well have helped the mainstream perception but you still need to create the right environment to welcome these new walk-ins.
That’s where NNN has done particularly well. And that environment has to welcome all sections of the market be it gay or heterosexual and stock a wide range of products for each.
“If pricing is unrealistic you may win a sale but loose a client forever. By offering the right products, at a fair price, supported by great service, everyone wins.”
However far this change mentioned before already is, what role do brick and mortar shops take in strengthening the social acceptance towards erotic products? Does this affect your retail shops?
I don’t think it aids social acceptance at all. It simply means that due to social acceptance its far less restricting in how we run the store, be it window displays, promotional events or product ranges. You wouldn’t say that the building of football stadia helped the social acceptance of football.
It was the acceptance of football that lead to the building of so many stadiums. But to continue the football analogy, social pressure then changed what happened in the stadium and shaped the development of them. Post Hillsborough, the lack of social acceptance of stadia brought about huge changes for the better. Just like the stadium designers, our bricks and mortar stores have had to change with the times.
A colleague of yours from France has said in an interview with EAN that rising prices for already rather expensive erotic products will become a problem since they discourage consumers. Do you agree with this statement or are your customers willing to pay a premium on selected products?
Surely it’s about a blend. A range of products that offers something for everyone’s pocket. The key however is a pricing strategy that encourages repeat visits. If pricing is unrealistic you may win a sale but loose a client forever. By offering the right products, at a fair price, supported by great service, everyone wins.
Many of the producers, distributors and brands have representatives, who visit the brick and mortar shops to communicate expertise and knowledge concerning the products. Do you think this strategy is helpful? Or is there a sort of fight for the attention of the shops amongst suppliers?
Staff training can only ever be helpful. Their visits are free and they are experts. Of course we want to take advantage where possible. Helpful, knowledgeable staff are vital.
On June 23rd, the British are going to have a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union or not. Do you think the result – whatever it will be – will have any impact on the British erotic trade?
I think the result will have an impact on all trade, be it erotic or otherwise. It is vital that we as a country make a wise decision. So many people’s incomes depend on it. The argument is so complex and far deeper than the net contributor statement, and I hope that the matter is given serious air time on TV before the vote.