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August 03, 2018

Spreading the News: ECN Shares Secrets to Its Nationwide Success

One of the leading distributors in the adult novelty sector, East Coast News—aka ECN—quietly goes about its business of serving all sizes of adult retailers all around the United States. But what lies behind those three little initials? The team at ECN opened up and shared a few of its secrets for success. Since 1995, ECN has been a force to be reckoned with. Maintaining its status as one of the largest adult toy distributors, ECN boasts a sum of 25,000 products from more than 150 of the industry’s manufacturers. Throughout the years, ECN has both acquired and started many integral brands in the adult industry as well. The company’s countless nominations for industry awards are evidence of its distinct and vital role in the supply chain. Led by Frank and Michael Koretsky, East Coast News is a spin-off of the brothers’ successful video distribution business, International Video Distributors (more commonly known as IVD). ECN was originally set up to accommodate the distribution of non-film and non-digital adult products such as print magazines and adult novelties. Over the years, the adult novelty market exploded—and the management of East Coast News proudly proclaims its part in propelling this explosion. The Koretsky brothers adopted everything they had learned in video distribution, particularly their goal to implement change ahead of the market. This approach has been integral to their positioning. The principals at ECN never forget why they opened up shop in the first place: the customer. With three warehouses strategically placed across the United States for optimal shipping times, a 24-hour shipping turnaround and a partnership with FedEx, they recognize the importance of timeliness for every order, no matter the size or location. That customer-oriented focus is echoed in the ECN mission statement: “Our World Revolves Around You.” While East Coast News may work with vendors across the country, manage more than 100 employees, and own warehouses in California, New Jersey and Florida, the ECN team doesn’t want to be considered a goliath. ECN clients range from “mom and pop” shops with one location in rural Arkansas to home party businesses to gigantic websites and everything in between. ECN warehouses are located in California, New Jersey and Florida. The ECN team proudly points to some of these clients, including Rick and Rebecca, owners of the Spice of Life retail store in Florida. “We have been sourcing from East Coast News for about five years,” the couple explained. “Working with a market leader like ECN affords us the ability to one-stop-shop. We don’t have to waste time going through different websites to find the products our customers want because of East Coast News’ inventory offering. We can order online, get an order confirmation with high order fill rate and on-time deliveries. We have been pleased with the partnership attitude their team brings to us. We have started working with their marketing team to add new products and displays in the store with fabulous results. In short, East Coast News offers us full support unlike any other distributor we have worked with. Their experience and support has helped us grow our business.” Martin Webster of Pandora’s Boxxx shared his own testimonial: “After doing business with ECN/IVD for the past 15 years, I can say without reservation that it has been a pleasure. Any issues that have arisen were quickly and efficiently resolved. From minor pain-in-ass questions that we may have had to major rollouts of new product lines, we’ve always known that ECN has been beside us and willing to support us in whatever ways we needed. We aren’t the most advanced operation in existence, and still operate in the dark ages in a lot of ways, but ECN works with our quirks and when possible offers suggestions to modernize. Our relationship feels more like a partnership at times. The knowledge of our specific stores and operations allows for focused and valuable suggestions from our sales representative, which eliminates a lot of the ‘noise’ associated with all of the new shiny products rolled out every year. I’m looking forward to our continued relationship moving forward and into the future.” The company offers everything its clients might need: drop shipping, in-store event support, a manufacturer resource management portal, and countless educational tools. In the last year, ECN has begun focusing on educational guides for customers and workshops for customers who own brick and mortars. One of the directors of marketing, Peter La Mantia, who is spearheading a lot of customer education initiatives, says, “In the last year, we have seen a shift toward education and relationships, which we started being more cognizant of in early 2017. … For ECN, it’s about being a partner to our customer, not just their distributor.” In January of this year, ECN launched a free vendor resource portal, where customers can access marketing materials from a number of top manufacturers in the industry. ECN adapts its business model to the increasingly online world, yet still retains its relationship with brick and mortars. “If you don’t evolve, in any business, you die off. Our distribution process is constantly in flux, always adapted to better accommodate our partners,” says Anthony Pingicer, director of marketing on the East Coast. The dedicated staff is another pillar of ECN’s success in the adult industry. The working environment seems to be a positive one, considering many staff members have been on board for more than a decade. The head of human resources has been with the company since its doors metaphorically opened in 1995. The longest-tenured salesperson has been with the company for more than 30 years. In 2017, four employees hit the 20-year milestone, adding to the handful that hit that milestone in years prior. Not only do employees seem to like ECN, the customers seem to like the employees. Vice President Lynda Mort received a StorErotica Award nomination for Executive of the Year in 2018, an award designed to honor innovators and leaders in the adult industry. Mort modestly credits the recognition to being “surrounded by an amazing team, and our growth and success has everything to do with the collective efforts of all.” She adds, “In the last few years, ECN has had to grow and adapt new practices and procedures to meet the demands of the market. Our success always come back to listening and integrating the needs of our customers. When we can solve their problems before they have them, we know we are on the right track.” The staff takes great measures to stay informed about products and trends and they even host regional training sessions where they invite local retailers and vendors for both networking and continued education.. The first event of 2018 was held in Austin, Texas, and was considered a success by the ECN team. Pingicer explains, “We are regularly trained by manufacturers on the latest and greatest items, and we pass that knowledge to our customers on a daily basis.” He also says that ECN hosts regional events throughout the year with trusted vendor partners so retailers can learn about new products and brands in more intimate settings. ECN attends a handful of trade shows each year, keeping the crew up-to-date on the newest products from vendors and manufacturers. The salespeople also accompany customers on the show floor, listening to their needs and increasing inventory when applicable. ECN regularly attends the industry’s largest trade shows, everything from the AVN Novelty Expo in Las Vegas to eroFame in Germany. Above, setting up for a poolside event at ECN's Spring Warehouse Show. Not only does ECN attend trade shows, they throw their own: the IVD|ECN Fall Show. 2018 marks the company’s fourth annual event, with invitations going out to some 60 manufacturers to meet and network with more than 200 retailers, buyers and shop owners. The three-day expo allows attendees to get one-on-one time with manufacturers and studios, support from IVD and ECN sales staff, and network with other retailers. Denise Young of Blush Novelties says that the show helped strengthen her relationships with partners in the adult novelty business and gain feedback on her own company: “The IVD|ECN Fall Show provides the perfect space for this.” Another vendor, Austin Ferdinand of CalExotics, says that attending the Fall Show helped draw attention to his company. “Being able to showcase our product in the main room contributed to our success and drew large crowds throughout the entire show,” Ferdinand said. The last three years the IVD|ECN Fall Show was held in rural Stowe, Vermont. For this September’s show, ECN will move the event to sunny Orlando, Florida. Aside from a customer-service-oriented business model and a reward-based working environment for their staff, ECN also values humanitarian efforts. After Hurricane Harvey struck the gulf coast, ECN partnered with adult novelty retailers Love Shack to distribute relief to the area. All three office locations sent over necessary supplies to a Love Shack location in Lake Charles, Louisiana, to be distributed to East Texas areas that had been affected. “ECN went above and beyond and provided a trailer full of boxes filled with essentials [that] will help our Texas friends recover after this tragedy,” a Love Shack rep said. “We couldn’t ask for a better partner to do this with.” Frank and Michael understand that with success comes great responsibility. Because of this, and their own core values, ECN is proud to support many charities at a local and national level, from cancer research to LGBTQ rights and more.

 
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