Owner’s of Tapelender Video Talk Real on the Gay Adult Market
By: Andy Powell, Staff Writer
DALLAS, TX – We have a special guest for here on JRL CHARTS – A little over 2 years ago, Mark Milburn (pictured right) purchased the Tapelenders Gift & Entertainment boutique which has been serving the Dallas GLBT marketplace for the past 30 years.
Mark Milburn has over 10 years in the Video Brick & Mortar mark and even founders and former owner Dave Richardson said “Mark had worked with us for eight-plus years as the DVD buyer, assistant manager and served as the manager before taking ownership.” Richardson said…he continued.. I am very proud of his accomplishments with TapeLenders and truly believe he and Chris will make a good team.”
His partner Christopher Lynch (pictured left) brings 10 years of corporate retail while working for JCPenney. he also worked with his family who owns a Sears franchise based in Oklahoma He brings knowledge that has been essential to expand Tapelenders
( www.tapelenders.com ) into the new era of on-line retail.
Distributors, production studios, retailers and JRL CHARTS fans I bring to you Mark Milburn and Christopher Lynch to you exclusively on JRL CHARTS.
Andy Powell: Christopher and Mark thank you both for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do an interview with me here on JRL CHARTS. The Adult Film Industry has been going through major changes this year….What have you found to be the biggest change in Gay and Lesbian Adult DVD rentals and sales?
Mark Milburn: Two things stand out. First the adult studios have limited the number of available titles that are being released each month. Secondly, the films being produced by the studios in some way mirror the trends being set by television. What I mean by that is that network television use to produce very high production quality series that have been replaced by more cheaply produced reality TV. In the same way many adult studios who, at one time put out high end productions (like Bolt and Carny), appear to have reduced their budgets on set design, etc.
Christopher Lynch: We are also surprised that the gay adult studios have not been leading technology as they did in the past. It was the adult studios who led VHS to market dominance over Beta. In the area of Blu-ray titles very few of the studios are releasing films in this format.
Andy Powell: I want to get both of your opinions on how it feels to be celebrating your 2nd year anniversary of owning the Tapelenders Video. Considering Brick & Mortar stores have been hit hard over the past several years, you two are continuing the thrive at Tapelender Video.
With over 7,000 gay and lesbian adult titles adult feature films and over 1,500 gay and lesbian cinema titles in stock every day – not to mention your wonderful display of Adult Novelties and pleasure products rolling off the shelves…How does it feel to be successful in such a gloomy marketplace right now?
Christopher Lynch: We are happy that the Dallas area GLBT community continues to support us and continue to be our customers. Obviously, it feels great to be as successful as we are in a down economy. I never envisioned myself to be an owner of an adult boutique store much less of TapeLenders. Just about every gay boy in the North Texas and Oklahoma area rented their first adult film from TapeLenders and I was no exception. It feels great to be celebrating the second anniversary of owning an icon in the gay community.
Mark Milburn: We actually celebrated by opening our second store in Austin , Texas . As of June 1 st we opened TapeLenders: Gifts & Entertainment and Package Menswear at 1114 W. 5 th St. Both stores occupy the same location with TapeLenders carrying adult pleasure products, magazines, calendars, and about 4000 rentable titles. Package Menswear is a men’s underwear, swimwear, and erotic wear boutique. Think, Victoria ’s Secret, for men.
Christopher Lynch: Thanks!
Mark Milburn: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to address your readers.
Andy Powell: Mark tell me, what did you see different as an owner as appose to being the manager?
Mark Milburn: It was a lot easier to spend money when it wasn’t coming out of my pocket! Seriously, though, discerning the needs of the customer in the future to help steer the store today is one of the hardest aspects.
Andy Powell: Several retail outlets are starting to do more book reading, video presentations inside the store to attract new clientele away from E-Retailers. Considering on-line sales as well as video on demand have taken a bit of a hit as of late…do you feel that your customer base is starting to grow a bit more with consumers starting to come back to brick & mortar?
Christopher Lynch: The recession and gentrification of the community has driven a lot of our previous rental customers away from our area. We have made up the rental loss with retail sales but won’t fully see our rentals go back up until our customers can afford to move back to the community.
Mark Milburn: Well, we are the only gay owned adult store in Dallas. We are also exclusively gay oriented. Our competition caters mainly to a straight clientele with gay titles as an after thought. By focusing only on our gay and lesbian customers we can provide a much greater selection in titles and toys.
We have the largest selection of gay and lesbian adult titles with over 8,000 titles in stock plus duplicates of many of our most popular studios.
Christopher Lynch: We consider ourselves to be a Gift and Entertainment store that, while providing a very large selection of toys, lube, and adult dvds, also provides a little more. We carry jewelry, gifts, pride items, and a full range of general gay and lesbian cinema. We try to make ourselves interesting to all the gay and lesbian community without losing site of the fact that our roots are in the adult industry.
Andy Powell: Would you say that it’s the customer service as well as the inventory that makes a Brick & Mortar successful? Because as you know when you buy on-line, you lose that personal service (In a matter of speaking of course)…but you’re able to communicate directly with your customer…what are your secrets in regards to what makes a Brick & Mortar successful.
Mark Milburn: Absolutely, it is both customer service and inventory availability that lends itself to success. In our case we distinguish ourselves from online retailers because we are within the community. Our customers make up our community and we hire from within the community. Since our employees come from the community it makes it easier for the customer to identify with us rather than a faceless person at the other end of a website.
Christopher Lynch: To expand on inventory availability we also distinguish ourselves from the online world by trying to find gift products and jewelry that you otherwise are not going to easily find online. We search for artists that don’t have a strong online presence and bring those items into our store.
Andy Powell: With city zoning officials as well as conservatives targeting Adult Video and Adult Boutique venues heavily over the past 3 years…with a major increase by as much as 25% since January…have you received any complaints or pressure from individuals who may not agree with your constitutional right to operate a law abiding business in the city limits?
Mark Milburn: We have not had any issues with the city of Dallas and zoning. Our pride parade, coming up on September 18 th , runs directly in front of our store. It boasts 30,000 to 40,000 spectators each year and over 100 parade entries. The parade always includes the mayor of Dallas and our two city council persons. The city police have always been helpful. We have a very good relationship with the Dallas PD.
Christopher Lynch: One of the things about TapeLenders is that it is a boutique store; we do not look like most of our competition. This is to say we are not a large warehouse store in the red light district. There is nothing wrong with that business model and has brought many adult retailers success. But with our location on the fringe of one of Dallas ’s most expensive neighborhoods ( Highland Park ) we have to maintain a different appearance. I think this has helped to not rile too many people against us. Also, with our longevity in the area (30 years) people are just use to us being there.
Mark Milburn: Fleshjacks and extreme fetish items. We have seen a surge in sells of sounding rods and TENS units (electrical shock) and accessories.
Christopher Lynch: Fleshjacks, Fleshjacks, Fleshjacks! They are made in Austin , a Texas original, and they are great. I am speaking from personal experience here folks.
Andy Powell: The Fall Season is coming guys…..what do you have coming up for the Fall Season kicking off in September at Tapelenders Video for consumers?
Mark Milburn: The biggest thing coming for falls for the Dallas community is pride. The day of the pride parade is always are largest sales day of the year.
Andy Powell: One thing studios would like to know is how to get sections in your store to display their Top Sellers? Be it Window Displays or Vinyl Banners….What would you recommend to the distributor?
Mark Milburn: Clean digital media. I mean two things by that. High resolution images/graphics and trailers. But also pg rated trailers. I can’t show full adult trailers in the store but if the studios were to cut pg trailers it would help sales and rental tremendously.
Christopher Lynch: I come from a software development background and have brought that expertise into TapeLenders. We have flat display televisions throughout the store that run digital media and have been programmed to pick up sales graphics. If I had trailers that won’t get zoning down on us (in regards to your previous question) I could run those. We also have problems getting banners and posters from our distributors. We have approached multiple Lube distributors who want us to pay them for banners and advertising for their products but have been unwilling to provide them to us.
Andy Powell: While DVD sales have taken a hard hit in 2011, marketing has been at a minimum..Some studios have given up on marketing to retailers because they state that they aren’t seeing any results from it.
While at the same time retailers such as yourselves have complained that they aren’t seeing any advertising on New Releases and that it makes it difficult to decide on what to purchase for your customer base. What is your opinion in your own words on this issue of advertising Gay Adult Film New Releases.
Mark Milburn: Studios have never really marketed to us. I think since we are a small boutique store with a single owner we tend to be overlooked by the major studios. We don’t spend 10s of thousand of dollars each month on adult new releases so I don’t really think we are on their radar. I have to do all the research myself to choose titles which is time consuming and leads to some buying mistakes. If the studios would take the time to reach out to smaller operations I think it would be profitable for both parties.
Andy Powell: How often do you bring in New Releases into Tapelenders per month?
Mark Milburn: We purchase 60 – 80 titles a month depending on availability. We will get multiple copies for or most popular studios. We generally have 8 – 10 copies available for rent of Titan Media and Falcon Studios.
Andy Powell: Compilations have been a huge mover for retailers this year with the economy in such turmoil. What would you say are the percentage differences on New Releases vs 4hr and 5hr compilations?
Mark Milburn: We don’t buy compilations. Our consumers are very discerning renters and buyers and we have not seen that compilations are valued by our customers.
Andy Powell: With the summer season almost over, are you seeing more distributors offering deals on gay adult film bulk orders?
Mark Milburn: I have not seen a major change in the number of offers I have been receiving with regard to bulk sales orders.
Andy Powell: One thing retailers such as yourselves have complained about a great deal is the fact that some gay adult film studios will repackage a old movie and pass it off as a new one. Now in their defense, they will say “There are always new customers who have never seen these movies before so therefore they are new to them.”
Are you seeing this happening as far as new and younger customers are coming in and renting and purchasing these titles with no problem or does it upset you when a studio attempts to distribute a older title with a fresh new boxcover to you at the new release price and having your customers complain that this is not a New Release? Forcing you of course to offer your customer a free rental in the process to keep them happy and to continue renting and buying from Tapelenders?
Mark Milburn: I do my best to identify such titles before they even get to the customer and not buy them or send them back to my distributor when the show up. It has been a very big issue with our renters as they are very unsatisfied when they rent a movie that has been marketed as new but isn’t new or only contains one new scene. It has become such a problem that we have discontinued ordering from certain studios.
Christopher Lynch: Frankly, it deeply offends me that some studios think I am not educated enough in the industry to try to pass off their old footage as new release. I think it is false advertising and completely inappropriately priced.
Andy Powell: You receive the daily JRL CHARTS retail research division’s daily New Releases for both Adult Novelties and Gay Adult DVDs. What are your opinions of the products coming out from manufacturers and studios? You have the new California Exotic Novelties new line of Glow-N-the-Dark Sex toys and Bel Ami Entertainment’s 3D Bel Ami . Are consumers moving into these genres in greater numbers than before or have they slowly started to move into the next generation of pleasure products and DVD formatting?
Mark Milburn: Our blu-ray and 3D products are not great renters or sellers for us. Our customers have resisted moving into next generation digital products (we still sell VHS tapes). But they certainly enjoy new and exciting pleasure products.
Andy Powell: Are you guys planning on any In-Store Appearances by Gay Adult Film stars to promote upcoming New Releases or Premier Parties this Fall?
Christopher Lynch: We have never been approached to host in-store appearances by the stars of adult studios. Given our location at the center of Dallas ’s gay and lesbian community we provide a perfect venue. So no, we have no upcoming appearances.
Andy Powell: As the official Gay and Lesbian Adult Enter-tainment Industry’s News Media outlet..I want to thank you for taking the time out to give us your views on the state of the GLBT Adult Marketplace.
Mark Milburn: Your welcome.
Christopher Lynch: It was our pleasures.
Mark Milburn: We always have our Lube and Rental Special. Buy a bottle of Lube and get one rental free. We also have recently begun a new special we call our 4-Pack Special. Rent any 3 New Releases and get a Catalog title free.
Christopher Lynch: Monday we will also start a clearance sale at our Dallas location, which we rarely hold. Included we’ll definitely have modern furniture and gift items. If we tell everything though it won’t be fun to stop by and be surprised.
Andy Powell: Mark, Christopher – thank you for chatting with me here on JRL CHARTS. Have a great End of Summer and a fantastic Fall Season.
Mark Milburn: Thanks for giving us the opportunity. We encourage all your readers to come into our stores in Austin , 1114 W. 5 th St , and in Dallas , 3926 Cedar Springs Road to experience our full range of product. Also, they should visit our website www.tapelenders.com for gifts and pride items.
Christopher Lynch: And don’t forget Package Menswear, also at 1114 W. 5 th St , or www.packagemenswear.com. The retail site should be open September 1st with some opening specials! You can also follow us on our new Facebook page as well as Package Menswear.
Andy Powell: Once again thank you Christopher and Mark for doing this interview for our readers here on JRL CHARTS. Remember JRL Fans in the Dallas area, make sure to stop by Tapelenders Gift & Entertainment to show your support for an establishment that has been serving LGBT community for 30 years strong.
Make sure to review the Tapelenders On-line Retail store as well. Tapelenders Video is located at 3926 Cedar Springs Road , Dallas , TX 75219-3518 (Map it) or call them at (214) 528-6344. They’re open daily from 9:00 a.m to 12:00 a.m.