If you’re looking to find a better “mousetrap,” odds are it is among the more than 500 products available at AsonTV.com’s La Jolla retail outlet.
“We’re undiscovered,” noted Frank Bianco, new owner of the direct-response sales business which has operated for years at 7520 Eads Ave. “When we opened up our (Saturday) sidewalk sales, folks were telling us, ‘We haven’t been in this store ever. We thought it was a TV repair shop.’ ”
Unlike the previous owner who ran the business more like a warehouse, Bianco prefers giving prospective customers the opportunity to experience the products they’ve seen advertised on TV infomercials first-hand. “We really want people to come in here and and play with the products, see them work, because they’re uncertain as to whether they will really do what they promised on TV,” said Bianco. “Nine out of 10 people would rather touch it and feel it.”
“Tommy Trout,” one in a long line of mounted singing fish, greets guests walking through the door of AsonTV in La Jolla, regaling them with Three Dog Night’s “Joy To The World.” Hanging on a wall nearby is the perhaps all-too-familiar Singing Bird Clock, featuring a different avian species chiming each hour.
More than anything else, the interior of AsonTV.com resembles a toy store. All kind of novel goodies with catchy names perch on shelves. The business is broken down into categories - kitchen, automotive, household, electronics, kids toys, etc.
“Right now we’re in fitness and diet season,” pointed out Bianco. “Next season is health and beauty. Electronic gadgets sell all year long.”
Just a few sales items at AsonTV are the H2O Mop Steam Clean The Floor, a Deluxe Fish Pen billed as “the world’s smallest fishing pole,’ Moon Sand, ever-popular Chia Pets, Glass Wizard, a blood pressure monitor, a teeth whitening kit and a contour leg pillow.
“The intention of all AsonTV products is to solve a problem that you have better than your existing method,” said Bianco, “whether it’s to whiten your teeth or make a purse bright so you can see in the dark, or straighten or curl your hair or clean better than Clorox or regular soaps. They’re all gadgets. They’re all improvements over existing technology. Each one has some advantage that you didn’t have before.”
AsonTV products typically sell between $19.99 and $129.99 and come with a 90-day or one-year guarantee from the manufacturer. “As a retailer, we take anything back within 30 days if you’re not happy or if there’s a damage issue,” Bianco promised.
AsonTV products sell exclusively for awhile at retail outlets like Bianco’s before being distributed to mass retailers like Walmart or Walgreens.
Bianco has been in the direct-response sales business for years, reselling directly to consumers through mail order catalogues like Sears or J.C. Penneys. He gravitated into direct-response on television, selling products to retail stores for infomercial companies. “I started out as a medical device engineer for things like pacemakers,” he said. “I love gadgets.”
Bianco stands behind the products he sells at AsonTV. “Every time a product comes in the store we end up testing it,” he said, “because we have to be convinced that a product works ourselves, that it’s of value. Everybody in the store has got to play with them.”
The AsonTV owner picks up a cylydrical Best Nutcracker designed to prevent nut chips from falling where they may. He fingers a Betty Crocker 100 cake decorating kit, commenting, “This is a big seller.”
Moving over to the store’s fitness section, Bianco eyes a Push Up Pro, noting: “These are a very hot-selling item. We sell eight or nine a day.”
Enthused, Bianco moves over to the housewares section, which prominently displays an automatic egg Peeler and an automatic can opener (he has one at home). He picks up My Little Reminder, keychain memo device that allows you to record items to avoid forgetting them while you’re shopping. Another nifty device for sale is a Pet Egg callous remover. Then there are Ever Fresh green bags to preserve fruits and vegetables in refrigerators, a credit card magnifier and an amplifier that, said Bianco, “allows you to hear a pin drop across the room.”
And, added Bianco, don’t forget about the ding king in the automotive section, or the Bacon Wave, a stand-up microwave holder that drains grease away from bacon while it’s cooking.
Are AsonTV products truly valuable? “Most of them are,” said Bianco. “Generally speaking, they are better than the previous solution you had, if you had one. They fill a real need. The question is, do you have a need?”
Bianco points to Clever Clasp, a magnetic clasp to help women fasten jewelry behind their necks ($9.99 for a set of 15), to illustrate the practicality of the gadgets he markets. He wags his finger at a Marvel Heroes vs. Villains Pinball Machine, now on sale for $199, marked down from $399.99. “We sold about 64 over the holiday season,” he pointed out.
The future is bright for direct-response retail. Said Bianco: “The direct-response business has been around since 1984 when the government deregulated the television airwaves allowing you to have real long ads. It’s growing, not shrinking. The direct-response business in the United States is about $7.2 billion in live TV. In infomercials it’s about $135 billion, with 75 million units sold a year in direct response. It’s becoming mainstream.”
AsonTV is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. The store hosts Saturday sidewalk sales on a monthly basis, weekly during holidays. For more information call (858) 454-0701.