When prompted to run Déjà Vu’s Adult Emporium store in Las Vegas, Tim Unglesbee saw a career change. Fifteen years later, as Deja Vu’s Director of Retail Operations, he’s had a front row seat to the evolution of adult retail.
(Note: This “Store Spotlight” is a brand new section that will appear in upcoming issues of SE Magazine. We will be highlighting well-known multi-unit adult store brands from across the US, featuring interviews with key players within these organizations. Each of these brands has a story to tell, and it will be the goal of these Store Spotlights to tell the story of some of the industry’s most successful multi-unit store operators.)
Tim Unglesbee is director of retail operations for the approximately 60-store Déjà Vu adult retail store group. Unglesbee was a club manager for Déjà Vu for eight years. In 2005, he was recruited to run their new 12,000-square-foot mega-retail Adult Emporium store on Tropicana in Las Vegas.
“I wasn’t unhappy managing clubs, but this was an opportunity to be in charge,” says Unglesbee.
Unglesbee has seen a huge transformation in adult retail in the 15 years since he migrated from managing Déjà Vu’s clubs to the adult store arena. Storerotica Magazine’s legal correspondent, Larry Kaplan, spoke with Unglesbee about the shift in adult retail that he’s witnessed over the past 15 years, and where he sees this industry headed.
SE: How was Adult Emporium a precursor for the future?
UNGLESBEE: What we set in motion then at the Tropicana store is what we’re trying to do now throughout our group. Upscale adult retail taken to the next level to completely escape the stigma of adult retail stores as being run down, not well-stocked shacks with poor or non-existent customer service.
Fifteen years later, we’re still the standard and I believe a lot of that is attributable to management. The newest member of our management team at Adult Emporium has been there five years; the most senior has been with us for 12 years. Group-wide, our core managers all have at least 4-5 years seniority.
SE: Talk to us about the Love Boutique demographics. How have your customers changed in the last 5-10 years?
UNGLESBEE: No doubt the customer base has changed over the past decade; we now routinely see couples in our stores. Many use their local Love Boutique location as part of a “date night” experience.
Our female guests have definitely become more conscious of what materials and ingredients are going into their bodies. They’re also more willing to spend money on “higher-end” products that will last; not just one-and-dones.
SE: What part of the store do your male customers generally gravitate towards?
UNGLESBEE: Male stimulation products are very popular. Stokers and cock rings continue to be a big thing for men and we’ve seen a rise in sales involving prostate toys as men continue to explore and find their g-spot.
“If (manufacturers) want brick-and-mortars to succeed, they need to support us through regular outreach and by not competing with us as many do now, when they make their products available directly from their own websites or from Amazon, eBay and other third-party sites. Customers can often buy online at prices way cheaper than our cost to buy those products.” — Tim Unglesbee
SE: What are some product trends that you’ve seen resonate with your customers in the last few years?
UNGLESBEE: People are definitely more open to try anal. Whether its anal sex, fun with anal toys or prostate stimulation. With more information out there, the stigma of painful anal sex is starting to die off and people are actually educating themselves on how to properly do it. Properly done, it can be very pleasurable.
SE: What are some of your current top selling products/brands?
UNGLESBEE: Our top selling brands are We-Vibe, Womanizer, Wicked Sensual, FemmeFunn, System Jo and Sportsheets.
SE: When it comes to customer requests, are they more apt to ask for a specific brand or just a type of product? If they’re asking generally about a certain type of product, how does your staff educate them to a specific brand and properly facilitate name brands to your customers?
UNGLESBEE: We do have more guests coming in requesting specific toys and/or brands. There are many online bloggers, podcasts, and YouTube channels that provide so much information in this area for people to help them make educated choices. We also make sure our staff is well trained on products to provide information that would be helpful in their decisions, among the many available toy selections.
SE: How does Deja Vu handle “showrooming” with your customers?
UNGLESBEE: There is no doubt that great customer service and knowledgeable employees keep our customers loyal. Déjà Vu is the leader in quality customer service at all our locations, worldwide. Customers crave the ability to use their five senses when purchasing adult products. Sight, touch, hear, smell, and taste all apply, whether it’s a toy, lubricant, massage oil or lingerie.
SE: Do you ever try out different sales strategies in higher-volume stores, then pass them on to other stores?
UNGLESBEE: We try things out in our Las Vegas stores first. Systems that have been successful there have definitely been implemented in other locations. Not everything will work everywhere, but if you’re looking to see what works, there’s more opportunity for raw data there than in smaller stores.
SE: How do you approach in-store promotions like ladies’ nights and other events? Does Deja Vu offer home parties?
UNGLESBEE: In-store events are what we are known for. Nobody hosts an event like Déjà Vu. Months of planning goes into having a successful event/party, from the creation of the theme to contacting vendors, advertising, training staff and successful completion. It’s quite the process. We currently offer home parties in our Las Vegas locations and are looking at them for other stores.
“The last 10 years have brought huge, innovative changes to high-end adult products. It’s crazy what’s emerged in that time. Things like the We-Vibe products where phone apps and similar technologies are involved. I see that trend continuing with more and better technology intertwined with products to improve your sex life.” – Unglesbee
SE: Overall what is your opinion on the state of lingerie sales in Love Boutiques and your other stores?
UNGLESBEE: Lingerie/dancewear sales are steadily climbing throughout our locations. The key to keeping sales numbers up is constantly refreshing inventory with new styles and trends. Just like you’ve seen most non-adult brick-and-mortar stores struggling to compete with online sellers, we must go up against direct manufacturer web sales and third-party sites. Lingerie is no different, but again it comes down to seeing the product and trying it out. How does it look and feel? All our stores offer that shopping experience.
SE: What do you see as the future of adult retail?
UNGLESBEE: The last 10 years have brought huge, innovative changes to high-end adult products. It’s crazy what’s emerged in that time. Things like the We-Vibe products where phone apps and similar technologies are involved. I see that trend continuing with more and better technology intertwined with products to improve your sex life.
SE: If you could speak in front of industry manufacturers and distributors what would you advise them? What can they be doing to help more customers come through your doors?
UNGLESBEE: If I could meet with them, face-to-face, I would explain that if they want brick-and-mortars to succeed, they need to support us through regular outreach and by not competing with us as many do now, when they make their products available directly from their own websites or from Amazon, eBay and other third-party sites. Customers can often buy online at prices way cheaper than our cost to buy those products. To try to compete with someone who doesn’t have the overhead of a brick-and-mortar really cuts into our profit margin, which we must make to stay in business and support our staff.
If manufacturers want people out there on the ground, selling their products and getting their information out, they have to help keep these stores in business. Instead, many are making it easy for consumers to just type in a website on a computer, click a couple of buttons and buy a product online in two seconds at an untouchable price. Luckily, even with that option, a lot of customers still come in to our stores, saying they want to see a product or listen to it or smell it or touch it; they want that sensory experience.
SE: Are any particular manufacturers more supportive of retailers?
UNGLESBEE: CalExotics is a great role model for manufacturers. They do a 100% wonderful job of going out and interacting with the stores themselves, regardless of whose distributing their products to those stores. They come to the stores, do the trainings, help to reset the stores. I’d like to see more manufacturers do things like that. Unfortunately, not all are that supportive.
I’ve known a CalExotics employee for many years. He’s probably on the road 250 days a year, shaking hands, supporting stores. That’s a big part of why they are so successful.
Larry Kaplan is the Legal Correspondent for StorErotica Magazine. Mr. Kaplan is a business broker in the sale and purchase of adult retail stores and adult nightclubs and the Executive Director of the ACE of Michigan adult nightclub state trade association. Contact Larry Kaplan at 313-815-3311 or e-mail email@example.com.