They peddle dust-gatherers such as TV-dinner tables, greeting card construction packs and 'miracle' machines that promise to 'work those abs'. It can't be easy, even for infomercial hero Chuck Norris, to flog gymkit to an audience that's moulded to its sofa. We're not sure who buys the stuff, but Mintel values the UK teleshopping market at £395 million, excl VAT.
Unlike internet users, teleshoppers can't search a near-infinite range of items, but must flick through channel after channel of kitchen knives, gaudy jewellery and drooling sales spiel before seeing something they might want. But if it sounds stone-age to base a business on semi-comatose shoppers saying 'ooh, I could do with one of those', consider the success story that is QVC. Global sales for the American channel topped $5.7 billion in 2004 - due largely to slick salespeople and enticing claims. The lesson is not lost on our own Price-drop TV, where you might buy, say, a dozen shop-soiled Diadora tracksuits for only £5.50. Watching its bravely cheerful hosts try to fill time between calls with stilted chat about the spice rack on offer is to see their dreams of TV stardom melt. But that won't worry Price-drop's mother company, Sit-Up TV. It has an annual turnover of £239 million.