How to Get Ready for QVC, HSN

BY: ON WEDNESDAY, JULY 09, 2014

Watch one of the "hoarders" shows on cable TV and you get an glimpse of one home shopping niche market. The poor guys who have fallen into the hoarding lifestyle often don't even get their merchandise out of the boxes.

There's even a pretty long discussion thread on the topic on the
QVC community forum pages. They wonder which came first, QVC or hoarding. My money's on hoarding. However, we know that beyond hoarders, QVC and HSN have legions of loyal shoppers who can turn a little-known retail item into a viral shopping phenomenon.

That's both good and bad news for the small business owner who has developed the next great product that falls into one of the categories typically featured on these cable shopping networks. A product can get instant national recognition, but you must have enough on hand to efficiently meet demand.

We aren't on Etsy anymore, Toto

Anyone making a beautiful reversible skirt that goes from office to evening wear and selling it on Etsy can't still be making a few by hand on weekends. Serious manufacturing chops are required. However, don't abandon all hope if you have a great idea. QVC, for example, will look at working prototypes, according to the info they post for aspiring vendors.

The story is about the same over at HSN. However, it looks like HSN will go out of its way a little further to help inventors and small business owners get a great idea to a manufacturer.

You can expect a network like QVC to place a wholesale order for about $30,000-$35,000 of an item. That is a significant amount of a single product. Producing that much "on spec" can be expensive and might prompt some small business owners to look for an investor to share the risk. At HSN, the inventory threshold isn't as high. That network expects vendors to have enough product to support a $5,000 purchase order.

If you get serious about placing any of your products on a cable TV home shopping channel, there's a good chance you'll find yourself shopping fulfillment services. QVC, for example, warehouses some of the items it features, but most are drop shipped. If you don't have warehouse space and a shipping crew to promptly meet demand, it's smart to go with a reputable fulfillment company. Further, contracting with a firm located in middle of this big country, will help you keep customers on both coasts happy.

Good product, good narrative

Not long ago, Marilyn Montross, QVC's director of vendor relations, talked about their search for products: "QVC is very open, and in fact eager, to find entrepreneurs to do business with because our customers love the kinds of innovative products that vendor base brings to QVC."

And when she discussed what makes a successful product, it sounded a lot like what makes a successful social media presence. "(Entrepreneurs) also generally come with a back story that's of interest to the customer. Customers really enjoy rooting for people who could very well be their neighbor or their nephew," Montross said.

Have a great product or prototype along with a good back story? If so, maybe you're just one QVC or HSN submission away from the big time. Although we know that digital retail sales continue to boom, there's no reason not to enter the cable TV world as well.

Image via Shutterstock

About the Author

Susan Solovic

Susan Solovic, THE Small Business Expert, is an award-winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, New York Times, WSJ and USA Today bestselling author, media personality and attorney.

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