The growing legion of TV shoppers in Japan has turned the relatively new market into a 110 billion yen colossus.

And while it currently accounts for only a small slice of the pie in the nation’s mail order industry, sales are continuing to grow, according to analysts.

Major TV shopping company Prime Network Inc. has seen strong sales of its popular Abtronic abdominal exerciser. The firm, based in Nagoya, has reportedly sold more than 1 million of the devices since it began selling them in October.

Prime expects about 22.5 billion yen in sales for its business year ending in June, with just under 90 percent of that coming from direct TV sales.

The firm pitches its products using two formats: home shopping and infomercials.

These home shopping programs run between 30 minutes and an hour, featuring TV celebrities extolling the virtues of between five and 10 items.

Targeting viewers in their 50s, Prime uses presenters who appeal to this demographic, including singers Yasuo Tanabe and Yumiko Kokonoe.

Prime’s infomercials meanwhile focus solely on the Abtronic and contain a more direct marketing pitch.

Company officials said that running an intensive advertising campaign for a limited time during special event programs, such as New Year’s specials, can also ratchet up sales figures.

Akira Takata, president of marketing firm Japanet Takata Co., is considered TV shopping’s main drawing card. He is known for his extensive knowledge of merchandise, including PCs and camcorders.

Japanet Takata is involved in a wide range of direct marketing, embracing print media, TV, radio and the Internet. The firm projects sales this year of 62 billion yen, up about 15 billion yen from last year.

TV shopping sales account for about a third of the firm’s revenues, Takata said, adding that the air time boosts his company’s name recognition, creating a synergistic effect.

The business, based in Nagasaki, started out with radio shopping in 1990. It now has its own studios, offers a range of TV shopping programs and has its own specialty channel on satellite broadcaster SKY PerfecTV, run by SKY Perfect Communications Inc.

Jupiter Shop Channel Co.’s Shop Channel began hawking goods in 1996.

A specialty channel, it is on air 24 hours a day on SKY PerfecTV as well as some 260 cable TV stations, making it accessible to more than 13 million households. The firm anticipates sales this year of about 26 billion yen.

Jupiter Shop Channel operates a studio in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, from where it broadcasts 100 hours of live material each week.

Shigeru Ohashi, the company’s chief operating officer, attributed the firm’s growth to its continued efforts to appeal to seasoned buyers — women between the ages of 30 and 50.

Ohashi believes TV shoppers will only buy products if they trust the integrity of the TV station offering the goods.

“No matter the circumstances, we should not betray the trust of our customers,” he said.

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