The success Shots Europe experienced eventually beckoned expansion to America, and Ruben Deitz was the perfect man to oversee that (successful) endeavor.
A quick look at the Shots Europe and Shots America websites illustrates which is the “big brother.” That would be Shots Europe, which was originally started by Oscar Heijnen 20 years ago. Heijnen launched Shots Europe—as many like-minded companies of the time—with adult videos. Then a decade ago, Heijnen started to transition to the toy business, which has been very good for Shots Europe.
Shots as an international company is one of the fastest growing companies of pleasure products in the world and boasts two major distribution centers in two continents—a 160,000 sq. ft. facility in the Netherlands and a 35,000 sq. ft. facility in Santa Clarita, California. Their assortment include adult toys, novelties, lingerie, games, lotions and creams and is sold in over 80 countries.
Shots has plans to release at least 12 new and innovative lines in 2018 and will continue to push the envelope in product development. Shots is privately owned and 100% privately financed. By the way, they have also won Best Pleasure Company of the Year Seven Years Running at Erofame.
“Shots has a full art department, almost everything that is made and sold is our own design and molds,” says Ruben Deitz, the CEO of Shots America and the man Heijnen partnered with three years ago to commandeer the Shots empire in North America. “We start from scratch and design our own product. First we develop an idea, discuss all the alternative options, sketch the idea in paper, develop a digital 3D drawing, print a 3D mold, develop several prototypes until we feel the product is perfect, design the packaging and marketing campaign and finally discuss with our loyal partners a sales strategy.”Shots America was started because Heijnen always wanted to challenge himself and see if he could succeed in the world’s largest and most difficult market. He saw it as a personal challenge and always dreamed of having an international company that would be recognized in every country in the world. When the partnership between Heijnen and Deitz was negotiated and finalized, his dreams of opening up Shots America was made into reality.
“When we opened a direct distribution channel of Shots in the U.S., it was primarily intended to blend the European company core values and work ethic with a U.S. marketing strategy and massive market in order to become a better hybrid version of ourselves and create an economy of scale,” says Deitz. “It was very important to us to have full control of Shots image as a manufacturer where we could control the distribution channel, pricing, product offering, creative marketing campaigns and world class customer service. We currently have 28 different amazing brands that are selling great at the retail level. Some of our top-selling brands are Boom, Chrystalino (XBIZ 2018 Sex Toy of the Year), Easy Ridders, Electro-Shock, Fist-It, HIKY, JIL, Love Line, Man Cage, MJUZE, Ouch, Pumped, Simplicity, Shots Toys, SLT Self Lubricating Technology, SONO, RealRock, Retro, Rich, SLT and VIVE.”
The expansion has clearly paid off, as Deitz says Shots America has recorded triple-digit growth every year since opening.
Shots employs a multi-pronged approach to its stable success. The tenets of this proven formula include encouraging smart growth without being too conservative; creating a communicative atmosphere to motivate innovation; delighting customers with superior customer service reflected in everything the company does from purchasing through distribution; improving understanding of the industry and its competitors; expanding understanding of the business outside of its functional silo; getting closer to customers to better recognize their needs and values; and never being complacent with success.
Cents and sensibility
Shots Europe and Shots America don’t just differ in geographic terms. “There’s a distinctively different taste between European manufacturing and American marketing,” says Deitz. “We’re being very aggressive in the taste between European manufacturing and American marketing. Our success is actually being able to blend the two cultures and develop a strong corporate culture that will thrive everywhere in the world.”
He points to how the two companies at the start had different opinions on packaging strategy.
“I think as a global international business we needed to incorporate both the European and U.S. packaging style and merge them into an innovate new style of our own that customers will identify immediately as a Shots product,” says Deitz.
“This adaptation has helped the company become more of an international company than it was before,” Deitz says.
There’s also a difference in overall sensibilities. “In Europe, they don’t like ‘Look at me,’” comments Deitz. “They absolutely disapprove the attitude (in the U.S.) of, ‘We’re the biggest, we’re the best, we’ve won all these awards.’ Europeans are very humble and don’t like to point out accolades. They’re more relationship, service and quality driven.”
Interestingly, while many people would consider Europe as a leading trend-setter when it comes to fashion—think Paris, Rome, Milan, or London—Shots America tries not to necessarily take its cue from Shots Europe. Instead, Deitz says Shots America is looking at specific niches “more so than what’s trendy on any continent.”
“We are looking at the overall picture of the pleasure product industry that haven’t developed the proper product and if there’s a gap in that product to develop a better brand, a better quality product with better pricing and better packaging,” continues Deitz. “We really don’t focus on anybody. We try to create our own designs and go after markets where we see they’re not fully developed and they’re a target to be improved.”
Shots loves logistics
Another interesting aspect in comparing Shots America to Shots Europe is the logistics of freight. Although there is a difference between shipping across state lines (Shots America) and country borders (Shots Europe), the hurdles of shipping across countries has lowered dramatically with Europe’s “unionization.”
“It’s almost like shipping across state borders, if it’s within the European Union,” explains Deitz, who adds that Shots is in the advantageous position of having a fulfillment center in its home country of the Netherlands and one in Los Angeles. That’s on top of its manufacturing plants in China.
“If we don’t have enough stock in one or the other facility, we can transfer stock between the Netherlands and U.S.,” says Deitz. “So if a specific brand is taking off more in the United States, I have availability of the immediate stock in the Netherlands as well as the Netherlands has availability of stock in the U.S.”
The inventory systems are real-time, providing the ultimate in transparency. If something is in the process of being manufactured, Shots can modify the manufacturing to split the stock into both the European and American locations. Logistics isn’t necessarily confined to how something goes from point A to point B, it also involves what is going from points A to B.
“The distribution channels are very different in Europe and the U.S.,” Deitz says. “(Europe’s) market is so big, and they already have a big piece of the pie in terms of market penetration with over 5,000 customers and they carry over 18,000 SKUs. In America, we have a more narrow and traditional distribution channel and carry only 2,500 SKUs all of which are manufactured by us.
“Because our product is fairly new in the U.S. market, that can be a huge advantage for retailers because they don’t have to compete on pricing alone with other retailers,” Deitz continues. “Our product isn’t as widespread, so whoever carries our product, their profit margins are going to be a lot bigger than with a more ‘mature’ company.”
One thing Shots America and Shots Europe definitely agree on: the merits of a party. Shots Europe has been in the party-throwing business for more than a decade, and Shots America has jumped at the opportunity to join its European brethren.
The first Shots America party was in July 2017 prior to the ANME Founders Show in Hollywood Hills. The party was replete with caricaturists, a magician, a Marilyn Monroe look-alike and even a “Minion” from “Despicable Me” fame.
“What we’re doing now is incorporating the European party with the U.S. party, where every year we are doing the same party in a different—always secret—location,” says Deitz.
Once ANME finishes, Shots invites their top five-10 customers from the U.S. to its famed Shots Europe party. The first day of the four-day affair consists of a warehouse tour for the chosen few, complete with new product releases followed by a one-on-one meeting with all of the customers.
“Then that same night, we have a party at Oscar’s house, an 18th-century house in the Netherlands,” exclaims Deitz.
And still the party gets better, because the following day is a Shots party thrown at the finish line of the International Four-Day Marches Nijmegen—a 100-plus-year-old event that boasts an influx of one million visitors to tout itself as the largest multiple-day marching event in the world. And there’s Shots partying in the middle of it all for what equates to a roughly 24-hour ride. The partying session is capped by a tour of Amsterdam.
“It’s a big event where customers get to see both companies, and how we interact with our customers in the U.S.,” says Deitz. “For us, it’s very important that everybody understand the Shots philosophy—how we build relationships with our customers on trust, product, service and everything. It’s important to see the culture of both companies come together.”
For more information, visit ShotsAmerica.com.