Hein Schouten, Account Manager at SHOTS, and Kim Faubel, Sales Director at COTR, talk about the collaboration between their companies that is now entering its next phase as SHOTS has become the European distributor for all three COTR brands: b-Vibe, Le Wand, and The Cowgirl.
Hein, COTR is best known for b-Vibe, The Cowgirl, and Le Wand. What does this new distribution partnership mean for your company?
Hein Schouten: SHOTS is growing so fast in distribution in Europe that we are looking to add all premium brands to our assortment. And COTR is a leading brand with products that are top of the game in their segment. So for us, it was a no-brainer to add them to our assortment.
These brands – b-Vibe, The Cowgirl, and Le Wand – are very popular. What makes them special? What sets them apart from other products?
Hein: Each brand has the best toys in their segment. And that’s what Alicia and Kim stand for. When they do something, they do it right. And that’s what the customers want. Not just another vibrating wand – no, they make the best wand in the world.
Was it always your plan to distribute all three of these brands?
Hein: We normally go full assortment from the start. Then the market can tell us which products are slow and which are the best sellers.
When picking new brands, do you look for products that will help set your company apart from the competition. How important is it that element?
Hein: We want to be a one-stop distributor, especially for premium and well-known brands. We listen to the market. When there is demand, we are happy to fulfil that.
“We want to be a one-stop distributor, especially for premium and well-known brands.”
b-Vibe and Le Wand cover popular and common product categories; The Cowgirl however is all about sex machines. How much potential do you see for this product category among your customer base?
Hein: You will be surprised how many high-end sex machines we sell per day in Europe. Especially online, where customer can buy them discreetly. These items are selling really well. And for the customer, it is a great value. You have to sell a lot of masturbators to equal the gross profit compared to selling one Cowgirl.
How closely do you work with your customers when you pick new brands and products? To what extent does their feedback shape your product range?
Hein: Some brands we bring in because customers ask for them. They want to buy from us, so they ask us if we could carry the line. And we will always see if we can.
So, you’ve entered into a new distribution agreement, the signature is on the contract – what happens next? For instance, how do make you sure that your customers know about the new products?
Hein: We did the launch at the SHOTS Sales Week. All visitors got a full presentation of the brands and an incentive to purchase. Now, our Sales Team goes on the road to visit all the customers and show them b-Vibe / Le Wand and Cowgirl. Orders can be given to the sales team or placed online on www.shots.nl.
You have entered into a distribution partnership with SHOTS. Can you tell us the reasons for this decision?
Kim Faubel: This decision was something we have considered for some time. While we do have partnerships that we value tremendously in Europe, there are still regions and territories where we felt our reach could improve. Without us personally being in Europe, we have come to rely heavily on our European distributors and SHOTS has brought in all of our brands (b-Vibe, Le Wand, and The Cowgirl) so that they may aggressively assist in our marketing and sales outreach.
What qualities are you looking for in distributors and wholesalers, and what are the qualities that SHOTS bring to the table?
Kim: When we enter a partnership, it’s important to us that our prospects share our values when it comes to educational-based content and body-safe products. SHOTS’ reputation precedes them, and their customers are consistently showering them with high ratings. When it came time to make the decision, it seemed like a no-brainer to us.
“SHOTS’ reputation precedes them, and their customers are consistently showering them with high ratings.”
What are your expectations regarding this collaboration?
Kim: We hope to broaden our reach in Europe, overall. We think this partnership with SHOTS will help us echo the success we have seen in the US.
What is your distribution strategy for Europe? Handpicking distributors for certain territories? Or working with as many distributors as possible to ensure maximum market coverage?
Kim: We prefer to hand-pick. Just like in the US, we are not interested in working with every distributor available because we want to be with like-minded companies that will give us the attention that a boutique company deserves and we would like for our partners to have a fair share in the marketplace instead of entering into too many partnerships and starting price wars.
How important is the European market for your company?
Kim: Europe is tremendously important, particularly when it comes to our wholesale division. To find retailers and distributors that are ‘on-site’ the way we are in the US will be incredible valuable for our growth. It will be especially nice to be able to debut and launch new items with the same enthusiasm and attention to detail as we do in the US – we have a lot of exciting products from b-Vibe, Le Wand, and The Cowgirl on the horizon!
Do you plan on further expanding your distribution network in Europe?
Kim: I think for now, we have everything we need and want and are looking forward to blooming where we are planted with our current partners.
Are there big differences between working with distributors here in Europe and working with distributors in the American market?
Kim: I think the biggest difference is really proximity and, obviously, the pricing can be a hurdle when it comes to shipping, duties, VAT, etc. However, this is exactly why we wanted to expand our territorial reach with partners like SHOTS; to have folks on the ground in the territories that we physically are unable to be in as frequently will help us and we are eager to share our US successes with the European market.
Your products are more than just products: They are part of a mission to improve people’s sexual wellbeing. Which steps do you take to motivate your distribution partners and their retailers to support your mission?
Kim: Thank you so much! This is especially nice to hear because our mission has been – and will always be – the customer’s experience. This is why Alicia has instituted educational based content that automatically feeds to our retail and distribution partners. We also have some new marketing strategies that will be put in place in the coming months that will provide even more content to our partners that they share with their accounts and customers. Our focus will always be informative for the sake of pleasure – so expect our new strategies to be chock full of education with a healthy dose of fun and entertainment.