What a difference a year makes. When QVC, the world's largest electronic retailer, embarked on its yearlong search for 1,000 of the best American-made products in January 1995, nobody knew exactly what to expect (see "On the Air," April 1995). But now that the 50-state tour has ended, the event has "exceeded all our expectations on every level," says Bill Lane, QVC's vice president for new markets.
Indeed, when it was all over, QVC's "Quest for America's Best-QVC's 50 in 50 Tour" (which began in Texas and wrapped up in Hawaii last December) gave more than 15,000 eager
entrepreneurs the chance to show QVC buyers their regional products. A total of 1,000 winners were selected, and their wares, ranging from carpet cleaners and Cajun marinades to nasal dilators and make-your-own-jerky kits, were all broadcast live from QVC's studio-in-a-bus.
Overall, the tour sold 2.5 million units and generated an impressive $53 million in total gross orders. But while the numbers are dizzying, some say the whole experience has also succeeded in raising the hopes and expectations of entrepreneurs everywhere.
"I think they got the message that retailers are interested in them, and that they can get their products seen on a national level," contends Lane.
In addition, dozens of winning products that sold well on the local three-hour live shows later became part of QVC's regular programming. And for those whose products didn't exactly get phones ringing off the hooks? "We hope they learned something by talking to a QVC buyer," says Lane, "and that they received some education on how to market their products in the future."