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14 Jan, 2010 By: Thomas Haire Response


Little Just Keeps on Rockin’
By Thomas Haire (thaire@questex.com)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With another record-setting performance on HSN — this time during the TV network’s crucial Thanksgiving weekend sales period — one might think that DRTV legend Tony Little might sit back and enjoy himself for a month or two. However, during an interview in mid-December, it became clear that taking any time off was the farthest thing from Little’s mind.

It’s not hard to see why. With hit products like his Cheeks shoes still taking off (more than 600,000 pairs of sandals sold just through electronic media), two new infomercials — one for the famous Gazelle fitness product — set to test in first-quarter 2010, and a new book (Wiley Publishing’s “There’s Always A Way”) hitting stores at the new year, there simply isn’t time for Little to do anything other than what he does best — keep moving and keep selling.

“We had the highest-grossing Black Friday ever on HSN,” Little says. “It was a tribute to CEO Mindy Grossman and the network’s entire ‘hit team.’”

He also credits Bill Brand, the network’s executive vice president of programming, and Andy Sheldon, HSN’s senior vice president of television, for making HSN a great home for his winning line of products. “Those two guys, along with Mindy, have really changed everything in how a home shopping channel should work,” he says.

HSN and Canadian shopping channel TSC purchased 12,000 advance copies of “There’s Always A Way” for sale on their networks (the book has an official Jan. 4 release date). Little credits business publishing outlet Wiley with bringing the idea to his table.

“I’ve been pursuing a diet book for a while, but Wiley called with an interest in a business book,” he says. “They saw that I was continuing to remain successful in a bad economy — that, plus my history as a motivator, led them to believe I have a good message to share.”

Little points to the many times he’s reinvented his life and career. “As we negotiated, I told them some of the stories, going from adversity to victory,” he says. “After that, it became more biographical than a normal business book.”

What’s the book’s key message? “People today have to have an attitude. If your mindset is, ‘There’s always a way,’ that makes goals easier to accomplish and opens the door to more opportunities. I think of it as: reset, reinforce and reinvent. Reset your mind to being positive and cut negatives out of your life. Reinforce that positive mindset — become powerful and inspiring. And, finally, continuously reinvent yourself. You can’t expect to live your life, let alone do business, the same way you were five years ago.”

Those concepts have led Little to a career as an entrepreneur that is unmatched in the annals of DRTV. And that career continues to grow. “I was just in St. Louis, meeting with a major name brand shoe company about product development,” Little says of his Cheeks line, which is expanding from sandals into all lines. “Cheeks is a brand I own and developed, and we’ve been looking for a strategic partner in this expansion. This company believes it has a bright future because the branding has become so strong, not to mention sales.”

He also talks about the micropedic pillow, created with Homedics, that had great success in DRTV and on HSN. “It’s gone to retail at Bed Bath & Beyond, and there’s no current TV left, aside from HSN,” he says. “According to Homedics, BB&B is very happy with sell-through on their purchase and is requesting to expand the Tony Little brand presence in their stores.”

At the same time, Little is preparing for two new DRTV product rollouts, one the latest version of the Gazelle glider product — a brand that has grossed more than $1.5 billion for Little and Fitness Quest. “This is one of the few DRTV products that’s really branded itself. We shot the show with the team from Fitness Quest, as well as Ed Crain’s team from Kingstar Direct,” Little says. “It’s not a traditional show for the product — it’s an interview format with me and almost a ‘going-back-in-time’ to past successful shows feel to it.”

The show begins testing in first quarter, as does a show for Fitness Quest’s Easy Shaper workout product. “I’ve been most successful with live-to-tape infomercials, and that’s what we did here,” Little says of a process that included shooting two 35-minute live shows that the company can edit into a single long-form DRTV show. “It’s a great product to demo, and it has a price point — under $100 — that fits in today’s economy.”

One would think that would be enough to keep Little busy, but he did confirm rumors of the possibility of a new reality TV show. “We just signed a contract to go into development and see if there’s something here. I will say, however, that any reality show I do will be about my business and personal life — you know, the crazy world of Tony Little!” he says with a laugh.

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