ONLINE BUSINESS

The Other Amazon

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Got a hot new consumer product? The electronic retailers need you. They simply can't add product categories and suppliers fast enough. What does it take to make it on the little screen? We asked a giant -- no, not Amazon.com, but one of the original E-tailers. In 1999, QVC raked in about $2.8 billion in sales using TV, phone lines, and the Net ( iQVC.com). The company receives at least 25,000 product inquiries a year; 10,000 go through its submission process. About 250 brand-new products go on the air each week.

Inc. senior writer Susan Greco spoke with Marilyn Montross, QVC's director of vendor relations, in West Chester, Pa.

Inc.: What makes a best-seller in the world of TV home shopping?

Montross: The products don't do anything sitting on the shelf. Nine out of 10 require explanation. But a six-minute demonstration makes a consumer say, "Wow, I need that!"

Inc.: What are the best niches for entrepreneurs to break into?

Montross: Home products, health and beauty-related products, and food. Jewelry is another big seller; that business is growing so fast, it's difficult to find enough qualified people to make products for us.

Inc.: Any surprise hits recently?

Montross: The "hookless shower curtain." It came from a little company -- an inventor's first product. It's not uncommon to see that.

Inc.: How is iQVC different from selling on TV?

Montross: On the Internet we can sell a whole assortment of products from each vendor. A single item would get lost on iQVC. The buying pattern is also different. It's a consistent flow of orders versus the huge spikes on QVC. You don't have to have 15,000 of one product ready to go online.

Inc.: Will iQVC surpass Amazon one day?

Montross: I can say we're significantly more profitable than Amazon. Our fulfillment and phone order operations are already a well-oiled machine.

Last updated: Mar 1, 2000




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