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Direct Response Marketing

Retail Spotlight: Stack ‘Em High

1 Sep, 2011 By: Bridget McCrea Response

DRTV deepens its presence in both traditional and online retail.

The folks at TELEBrands remember a time when retailers turned up their noses when the words “DRTV” or “infomercial” were mentioned. It was the late 1980s, and the Fairfield, N.J.-based marketer was peddling its AmberVision sunglasses. “Sunglasses are a category,” the TELEBrands team was told by retailers, “which means you need 100 different styles, a display fixture, a replenishment system and a mirror so that consumers can try the glasses on.”

Without any of those things, TELEBrands — whose products at the time were viewed as competition for the retail sector — found itself in the role of educator. “We basically had to teach retailers about the As Seen On TV category, and have buyers assigned to that category,” recalls A.J. Khubani, CEO. The sweat equity paid off for TELEBrands, which eventually got a single retailer to put the brown-boxed AmberVision glasses on its shelves.

During the next five years, Khubani and his team achieved total distribution across multiple retail outlets nationwide, while concurrently teaching merchants about the value of carrying DRTV products. “It’s grown a lot since then, and today the As Seen On TV category is one of the top five for retailers, in terms of dollar volume,” Khubani says.

More Shelf Space, Please

You’d be hard pressed these days to find a retailer that doesn’t stock at least a handful of DRTV products on its shelves. Frequently positioned on aisle endcaps and as part of the “impulse” section (most often situated near the store’s cashiers), the product selection ranges from inexpensive gadgets all the way up to exercise equipment and housewares whose price tags exceed $100.

“Over the past five years, every retailer has become energized about As Seen On TV products,” says Bala Iyer, TELEBrands’ executive vice president who handles many of the firm’s retail relationships, including Wal-Mart. He credits successful products like the Ped Egg, Pillow Pets and the Snuggie with raising the bar in terms of sales velocity, and says we’re nearing a time when DRTV products are elevated to a new place in retailers’ hearts.

“At this point, As Seen On TV is no longer just a category; it should be a department in every retail store,” says Iyer. Wal-Mart is one company that’s leading the charge in that direction. Recently, the retailer’s CEO, Bill Simon, issued a directive designed to drive more DRTV product sales and tap even further into this “VPC,” or volume-producing category.

To achieve that goal, the retailer is dedicating 24-foot modular sections — with an additional 8-to-10-foot section at the front of the stores — where As Seen On TV products will be featured. “Wal-Mart has taken an aggressive position to capitalize on the opportunity,” says Iyer, whose firm will be participating in a half-pallet promotion for its Aluma Wallet across 2,500 stores this year. “Wal-Mart is expecting great results from this promotion.”


Retail Spotlight TELEBrands is taking part in a half-pallet promotion for its Aluma Wallet across 2,500 Wal-Mart stores this year.

So what’s driving retailers to do more than just shove a few DRTV products on its impulse racks? The media dollars spent upfront on DRTV campaigns have a lot to do with it. “Consumers are exposed to the products on TV, and calling or visiting retail stores to see if they carry those products,” says Iyer. “That bubbles to the top, where corporate buyers get feedback about the 280 consumers who asked about the Aluma Wallet. That viral feedback gets retailers excited about being a ‘destination’ for As Seen On TV Products.”

Clean Up on Aisle One

One direct marketer that’s posted good results at retail is Euro-Pro (Response, March), the Newton, Mass., developer of Shark and Ninja cleaning products. The firm introduces four to five new products annually to full, national distribution, including mass merchandisers, big-box stores, specialty retailers and clubs. According to George Fettig, chief marketing officer, each new product receives heavy DRTV support — primarily long-form — with retail distribution beginning shortly after the launch of the media and online campaigns.

Two recent Euro-Pro successes include the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Vacuum and the Ninja Kitchen System, both of which hit the top 10 in the Infomercial Monitoring Service (IMS) rankings and “sold extremely well at retail,” says Fettig, who has seen a 360-degree change in retailers’ attitudes towards DRTV products since the mid-1990s. “I remember a major national retailer threatening to throw the Jet Stream Oven out if American Harvest continued to advertise the product with DRTV,” Fettig recalls.

Fifteen years later, Wal-Mart awarded Euro-Pro the coveted “Supplier of the Year” Award based in part upon the traffic and sales generated by heavy and consistent DRTV campaigns for its Shark and Ninja products. “That pretty much sums it up,” says Fettig.

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