“We have taken everything we can out of 2019.”

Next year will mark a big anniversary for SHOTS as the company turns 25. However, since we’re not quite there yet, the focus of this interview is still on 2019. EAN and Oscar Heijnen look back at the past eleven months and what they held in store for Oscar’s company and for the erotic market in general.

What was your personal highlight in 2019 regarding the market and/or your company?
Oscar Heijnen: SHOTS is getting bigger and bigger and this year, I have been personally involved in the building and expansion of the team. Now, at the end of the year, we see that the people who joined have really made the foundation of the company more solid. Together with our already established workforce, we have been able to expand and realise the plans and targets we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year.

One would expect that my personal highlight would be sales numbers or profit, but this year, it was the flourishing of the entire team, and I am genuinely proud of that. Everyone in the SHOTS team be it the head office in the Netherlands, the Los Angeles office or our sales offices in Nottingham and Montreal, they all deserve a deep bow from me. What a great year, what a top team!

And what is your impression when you take a look at our market? Where do we stand at the end of 2019?
The adult industry is growing, we can see that all around us. New customers are still coming in and the online business is booming. However, the worrying thing is the price wars that our consumers are having to deal with; large online sellers such as Amazon are responsible for this problem.

As a manufacturer and distributor, it is in our interest that our customers have decent margins so they keep selling our products. I think we have been quite successful in that regard: The largest percentage of the assortment in European stores, online and offline, comes from Beneden Leeuwen. After 25 years of hard work, I think that’s something we can be really proud of.

“The adult industry is growing, we can see that all around us. New customers are still coming in and the online business is booming.”

In your opinion, which trends have shaped the market this year? Sex dolls or sex robots? Inclusion?
Well, sex dolls have always been around, and yes, they are becoming more and more realistic. I still freak out occasionally when the showroom layout gets changed and a realistic person is staring at me from a showcase. They are becoming so ‘lifelike’ and soon, they will start moving like human beings too, because robotics is the future!  We will be releasing some dolls in the near future that can change their body temperature, have moving eyes, neck, and facial features AND… they will be able to talk. Things are becoming increasingly realistic and this will be a very interesting development in the market.

In addition to the dolls, I have also noticed that the niche markets are evolving. When I look at labels such as Electroshock, Ouch, Pain, and products made of precious metals, we are clearly seeing growth there.

Do you agree with the statement that the developments within the market in 2019 did not differ much from what we saw in 2018?
Maybe a little. There are obviously new developments every year, even when from the outside it may seem that not much has changed. It also depends on what you are referring to. For instance, I see more and more companies opting for private labelling, and SHOTS is an expert in that area because we have our own laboratory called PharmQuests.

Here, we try to be as innovative as possible with new products such as CBD, which has proven to be a huge success. Another success story is our delay gel with iBuprofen as an active ingredient, making us the only company in Europe with a legally proven delay product.

And I could go on and on as our team is working day and night on innovative new toys and pharmaceutical products. We will continue to put more emphasis on that path in the coming years. I’ve always been a strong advocate of innovation, and SHOTS will try to stay ahead of the market by investing in it, guns blazing!

Seeing how not much has changed, does this also mean that we are still faced with the old problems and difficulties as well?
An old problem that may never disappear is that several existing brands want multiple distribution partners in Europe, who then manage that market together. You often see that those partners are competing with each other, and so they start price wars.

The prices in the distribution sector are already at their lowest. If you go lower, we would start selling without profit, and I don’t see that happening any time soon. Although, sometimes a new distributor will pop up who will temporarily do that before fizzling out.

In theory, retailers could make more profit that way, but only works out in the short-term. The brands that deal with this issue in the smartest way are the ones tat take major steps forward.

What is your toy of the year 2019 so far, and why?
I don’t think that there is one individual product that stands out amongst the others. I think that SHOTS is successful in every way and none of our products has ever failed. I think that in itself is a huge success for this year. Our motto is: ‘Do not make mistakes and make almost everything a success’.

Let’s talk a bit more about SHOTS: Are you satisfied with the developments in and around your company this year?
Absolutely! Of course, we want more as a team, but again, we have closed this year much more positively than expected. We have taken everything we can out of 2019.

There were a lot of changes at SHOTS in 2018. Did they pay off this year?
I don’t think I can come up with a single change that has failed or performed below par. We just continue to grow bigger and stronger but that can also cause a small problem in itself. In July 2017 for example, we were proud to open our new warehouse, where we could store almost 2500 pallets. SHOTS was ready for the future and we were able to design and market plenty of new products, add new brands, and also establish an assembly line for our pharmaceutical products. But now, two years later, the available space suddenly feels much smaller, and the warehouse is starting to fill up again. So, what now? Add an extra building? Consider a move, or maybe rely on extremely good stock management? We will have to think about that over the Christmas period.

Could you recap what your team and you have put together this year?
There are so many things to mention. We introduced a whole series of new brands and innovative products in all areas like cosmetics, toys, leather, and let’s not forget that we started a whole new lingerie department. The team has grown bigger and even more professional, which has further strengthened us. We have travelled all over the world to look for new markets, even in the far corners of the planet. The Asian market was a challenge, but we are achieving very good results there. In Europe, we have accomplished the highest growth rates ever, and America and Canada are also growing fast. Sometimes, it seems as if we turn everything we touch into gold, and it happens so regularly that I have to pinch myself to make sure that I am not dreaming. Now it is mainly about what we will achieve in 2020, the year in which SHOTS will have existed for 25 years, the year in which there will be no SHOTS Party during the Four-Day-Marches Event.

Shortly before the turn of the year, the obvious question is: What are your plans for 2020?
We will continue on the same footing as now. We want to grow by 30% in all areas, just like in previous years. We are going to put together a sales team at PharmQuests for the mainstream market, we will start at least one new company, and we are also going to take over at least one company. We are very ambitious; it’s in our blood.

And while we’re talking about 2020: What are your expectations for next year? Will there be big changes in the market or do will it be more ‘business as usual’?
Business as usual always means big changes here at SHOTS, but after 25 years, we still have a long wish list, and in 2020, we aim to shorten that list as much as possible. This approach often works but, at the same time, the list just keeps growing. However, at the top of this list sits the biggest wish of all, and that is to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Of course, we hope that we can continue for another 25 years at the same pace, with the same doses of health and happiness all round.

What is your big wish for the new year – apart from driving faster than 100 km / h on the motorways in the Netherlands, obviously?
Haha, yes, that is indeed a problem, because my car simply refuses to drive any slower than 100 km per hour. Unfortunately, I am the type of guy who gets at least 1 or 2 speeding fines per month. However, I am going to promise to stay under five fines per month from 2020. The state has earned a little more from me this year. Let’s just say speeding isn’t one of my better qualities.

As for the company and all those who work under my wing, I wish for a long future of health and happiness for them, as this is ultimately the most important thing in life.

Privately, I have been with my wife for 30 years, and we’ve been married for 20 of those years, so we hope to find the perfect moment to celebrate, and we hope to stay a happy and healthy family for many years to come. And last but by no means least, I wish everyone, be they associated with SHOTS or not, the very best for 2020. Have a prosperous, happy, and healthy New Year!