Best when: You want to learn all about new products and lines and love to see the faces behind the brands but you don’t want to leave your living room.
Home-shopping networks, such as HSN, QVC, and ShopNBC, need to sell only limited amounts of inventory (enough for a host to offer during one TV appearance), so they’re often willing to bet on interesting specialty companies that may be too small, new, or niche to have wide-scale drugstore or department-store distribution. But bigger names, like Lancôme and Bobbi Brown, come for the free advertising, and they often price products lower here (where robust sales translate into future appearances). An extra bit of value: “There’s a big education component to this sort of shopping,” says lifestyle expert Danny Seo, who has sold products on television. “The programming teaches customers when and how to use the products so they get the most out of them.”
Secure a low rate. If one of your favorite products is a top value (look for “Today’s Special Value” on QVC’s site or on-air programming and “Today’s Special” on HSN’s), you can lock it in at the onetime-only low rate with auto-delivery. The networks will ship the product to you as often as you want at the initial discounted price, and you can cancel anytime you want. Free shipping is sometimes included.
Check the website. Go to the clearance section for deeper discounts on leftover merchandise that didn’t sell out on air. For seriously committed bargain hunters, forums such as TVShoppingQueens.com allow you to live-stream programming from all the major shopping channels at once so you can comparison-shop and find the best deals. You can even pay an expert a nominal fee to track down the best deals for you.
Use smartphone apps to get the deal you want. Television shopping networks, such as HSN, have apps (for both iPhone and Android) with special offers that aren’t available through their regularly scheduled programming. For example, live-stream HSN on your iPhone and you might win $50 off your next purchase if you jiggle your phone when you’re prompted. (It’s called the Shop2Win feature, and it comes with the app.)