Business Success in the US – Blog #3 Changing Channels: US Television retailing is not about steak knives!

Like me, I bet many of you grew up being bombarded by offers from an eclectic mix of characters selling ‘high quality’ items on TV. To seal the deal most offered some sort of sweetener - My favourite would have to be the old chestnut, a set of steak knives.

I will be the first to admit that I brought this perception with me when I moved to the States about 6 years ago ..... How wrong I was! Television retailing is big business in the US with current estimates putting annual turnover at somewhere in the vicinity of US$9 billion.

The largest player, QVC, reaches over 90 million cable households and broadcasts ‘live’ 24 hours a day, 364 days a year! It has built its business on promoting big brands (e.g Dell, Birkenstock, Bose, Toshiba, Nintendo) plus establishing new (high value) ones. QVC has over 7 million active customers and takes anywhere from 5000 to 15000 orders per hour. Whats more it also ranks #7 in the US for online sales which now accounts for over 30% of its business.

Now to the crux of the matter - How can I successfully sell my products to a US television retailer? Well, apart from being a very lucrative channel it is also one of the most competitive (for obvious reasons) and in my experience you should look to one of the many manufacturers’ representatives that work with the likes of QVC and HSN. But to get you started, here are some basic questions you need to answer:

   Product, product, product: Television retailers buy products they feel are unique and will sell well. Due to limited air time they must be convinced that your product will perform better than current offerings (or the competition). QA/QC checks are also rigorous to avoid costly returns.
   What are your best selling SKUs? Are these currently available in the US? Its possible that the retailer may want a unique offering that can only be purchased on their channel and many carry Private Label brands.
   Can you demonstrate your product’s unique product attributes on air? Seeing is believing and definitely leads to higher sales.
   Beware of dodgy brothers: There are lots of companies and individuals out there in the ‘infomercial’ business who promise the world but are only after a quick buck.

Products of Interest

QVC carries a broad assortment of merchandise. In general, items with broader appeal will sell better that niche items. However, there are many, many exceptions.  Some of the top categories on QVC include:

Jewelry: Either with noteworthy designers or unique construction or story
Beauty: Color, skincare, haircare, nails, tooth whitening
Consumer Electronics: Brands, new technologies, problem solvers
Kitchen: Gadgets, electrics, tabletop, cookware
Food: Center of plate, regional, healthy snacks
Garden/Outdoor: Tools, grilling, plants
Other: Cleaning, home décor, watches, gifts, health & fitness, apparel & accessories

For more information a fact sheet on ‘Selling Successfully to QVC’ is available on request from Access USA.

Quote: “Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home.” David Frost

Ian Smith
Chief Executive Officer
Access USA Pty Ltd