Show TV director Darryl Clarke is the first to admit the TV shopping business is a peculiar one. “It can slide under your radar a bit, even though it’s right there in your face,” he says.
Trained as a fitter and turner, Clarke never imagined himself in the business, but fate took him on an unexpected path.
While backpacking in the UK in 2003, he met Philip Blomfield, and they began selling Miracle Shammy Cloths to the public at homeshows around the country.
“It was the best job a backpacker could hope for, with great commission and we got to travel all the time,” he says.
“The pitch men in the UK are among the best in the world and so we were trained by some really good guys. There is a real art to convincing people who have never seen a product, to feeling like they can’t do without it within minutes,” he says
Back in New Zealand, they decided to bring the UK pitch model to the market, took out a $10,000 Mastercard loan, landed 10,000 shammy cloths from Germany, and sold them individually at markets.
“The guy who delivered the cloths to us thought we were mad,” he says with a laugh.
For the first few years, it was just Phil, Darryl and his wife peddling wares, then they expanded their operation.
The pair launched Southern Cross Promotions in 2005. In early 2008, they purchased some basic camera and production equipment and built a basic TV set at the back of their warehouse in Papamoa Beach.
“In this set, we produced our first few direct response TV ads with the help of some students from film school. These ads ran on national TV,” he says.
In 2008, they began trialling direct response ads on TVNZ’s Good Morning show with silk duvets.
“We ran an 0800 to our office and crossed our fingers that the phone would ring. They did,” he says.
By 2009, they had proven the business was sustainable and formed a new company, Show TV, and built a call centre and infrastructure.
“Show TV is now the face of TV, online and at home shows and events, although Southern Cross Promotions still exists as the importer of all the goods.”
By 2010, the company had grown so much that it needed to set up a permanent base in Australia.
Clarke and Blomfield sold a third of the business to an old friend from highschool, Allan Webb, and he set up the Australian office.
The company now runs 30 advertorials a week in New Zealand and Australia, including The Café on TV3, and Channels One, Nine and Ten in Australia.
The company also runs online shop www.showmeshop.co.nz (with over 6,000 products), and has a consumer/show department.
It employs 50 full-time staff and sales contractors, but that number can fluctuate when they are at a home show.
The company attends 70 homeshows a year and run 14 or 15 separate sites per show.
The company is increasingly doing its own pitching and packaging, and has a fulltime video editor.
Their criteria for TV products is something that “everyone can use and can see a use in”, so products such as shammy cloths, nail polish pens, steam mops, and fried egg counter tops, says Clarke.
The company’s most successful product? The window cleaner Window Wow, manufactured in Italy.
Darryl and his business partner Phillip travel overseas regularly to look for new products – a necessity to remain competitive, he says.
“If there is a product that is selling well in Europe, we’ll hear about it, source it direct, brand it ourselves and sign the rights for NZ and Australia,” says Clarke.
They plan to expand their retail presence, and place more product in big box retail stores in New Zealand and Australia, he says.