The Electronic Retailing Association

Interview with Industry Personality Janie Peace, JML's legendary Director of International Sales

Janie Peace, JML's Director of International Sales

Janie Peace is Director of International Sales at JML, one of Europe's most successful retail promotion and home shopping companies. Janie joined JML in May 2000, following many years valuable experience in the DR industry. She immediately launched JML's International Division which now exports products and infomercials to distributor partners in more than 60 countries. In addition to the International Division, Janie is also responsible for sales to UK mail order companies and is a key member of JML's Product Development Group.

Janie has travelled widely, spending 20 years of her adult life in Africa and Asia. Now settled in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, UK, she loves relaxing at home with her family.

Amanda Justice, ERA Europe's Communications Director, had the pleasure to meet JML's legendary Director of International Sales, Janie Peace in person at the recent ERA Europe conference in Budapest and discovered that Janie has lots of stories to tell about her fascinating international life and pioneering DR/Homeshopping career.

ERA Europe: Janie, its great to meet you in person and thank you very much for taking time to do this interview. Lets start by talking a little about your background and life before you joined our industry.

Janie: I was brought up in Oxfordshire. My parents met during the Second World War whilst both in the Navy; my father returning to teaching in peacetime. My mother was an outstanding tennis player; she captained Wales several times and played for Oxfordshire well into her 40’s.

At 17, I went to Goldsmiths Art School and then took a Teacher Training course. Most of my relatives were teachers – so why not me?

By the time I was 19, my father was consulting at a teacher training college in the Gambia and I had an opportunity to visit. I fell in love with travel and Africa the minute I arrived; the heat, the exotic smells, the open sky – being somewhere new and different! Luckily, I also fell in love with a young British banker on his first tour, we married a few months later and spent the next 20 years being posted to a variety of third world countries over 3 continents.

A typical day in the Gambia

Our life was exciting, challenging and scary at times - but we loved it and looking back I would not change anything.

ERA Europe: How did your career in the DR/Home Shopping Industry start?

Janie: I think most people fell into Home Shopping in the early days. I had returned home to UK from India with my third child, who was 8 years old and not confident enough to join her brothers at boarding school. Whilst home I decided to update my IT skills at college, and soon a friend, Rupert Scott, asked me to help with his new business. He had just negotiated rights to some Australian DRTV spots and had managed to get them aired on UK’s Channel 4. This was 1992, and these were the first DR spots on UK TV.

Janie Peace and family, South Africa 1990

I had gained a little experience of selling in Ghana, shipping sawn timber all over the world, but selling fun things: kitchen gadgets, CDs, pen sets and jewelry – and on TV - I loved this new job!!

A couple of years later we were taken on by Katie Williams as her International Sales Department selling a range of superb infomercials around the world and then, when my friend left the business, I moved to London to the offices of Williams Worldwide Television as International Sales Manager.

In the year 2000 WWT closed its European office, and I was out of a job.

Janie with John Mills, Chicago, 2002

Thankfully, TV home shopping is a small world and I had heard that JML was branching out into TV advertising. I wrote to the chairman, John Mills - who I knew slightly - and told him that I could sell whatever he had to the industry and luckily, he bought the idea and hired me!

ERA Europe: Tell us about some of your experiences in the industry

Janie: In 1992 this was a very young industry. In the mid ‘80s Katie Williams had persuaded some of the US networks to allow infomercial programming in the downtime after the late film and before morning programming, and thus DRTV was born! At the beginning, the industry had a reputation for selling cheaply made products with almost no customer support but, over time and with the growth of bodies like the ERA, the business was regulated and consumers can now feel confident to buy through TV almost anywhere in the world.

Initially the industry was dominated by a small number of large global media companies and product entrepreneurs who also supplied mail order companies. Nowadays the major media companies have changed, but many of the best product developers are still going strong.

Unusually for a marketing industry, the people who join it rarely leave! Many of the great young characters I met in my first few years are still in the business, often working for several different companies over their career, or doing something else for a while before returning.

Janie is a true legend at JML. When Janie visited for her first interview with us in the year 2000 she raised eyebrows because she was wearing shiny leather trousers! That was typical of a lady who has an incredibly vivacious personality and a passion for having fun whilst building a globally successful business. Janie has developed the special relationships we have with many of our international distribution partners and puts in longer hours than most people I know. She has tireless energy for getting the job done. Working with Janie over the past 19 years has been an absolute pleasure and whilst I’m sure she won’t mind me saying that her career has already been a substantial one, all of us at JML are looking forward to many more years with Janie as an integral part of our family.

Ken Daly, CEO, JML

ERA Europe: What were the highs and lows?

Janie: This industry has always been a joy to me. Of course, there have been problems over the years, but solving them is all part of the fun. I was sad when WWT closed in London, but this opened up new opportunities for me.

As the International business at JML grew, I was gradually able to expand the team. Having the support of an enthusiastic team who share the same goals and challenges makes every day a pleasure.

ERA Europe: What’s the most valuable piece of advice you can give to your team?

Janie: As a salesman, your relationship with your customer is the most important thing to cherish. They must like, trust and respect you, and the company you represent. Always be positive and don’t forget to smile!

ERA Europe: How would you describe your personal business philosophy?

Janie: Be honest with yourself, your team and your colleagues. Work hard and do every task to the best of your ability - and enjoy doing it!

ERA Europe: During your career, you have met some of the brightest stars of the DR/Home Shopping Industry. Who is yours?

Janie: There are many stars. I have already mentioned Katie Williams, who was mentor to me and many others in the business. Also, John Mills – the ultimate entrepreneur salesman who has never lost his joy of business and love of the industry. He was never happier than meeting people at the conferences and discussing the latest products and opportunities.

ERA Europe: Is there anyone you are particularly grateful to?

Janie: Both the above, for giving me a chance and believing in me.

Janie has had an amazing career in the DRTV industry for many years and her success as a woman in a male dominated sector inspires my own career path. She been a great mentor and throughout my time working with her she has supported me professionally and also personally. A true legend.

Emma Coleman, International Sales Manager, JML

ERA Europe: What are your hopes for the industry in the coming years?

Janie: JML’s retail promotional business is still going well, but many of our retail customers are struggling to compete with on-line retail. The way people watch TV and the way they shop is changing and therefore the industry must change with it. At one time you could put almost any product up on TV and you could guarantee that enough viewers would ring up and order to make it viable. Nowadays the viewers are watching TV on demand and can compare any number of products on-line for the best deal. We must find the most effective ways to market our products which will keep our unique business alive. Social media is the key, but with technology and trends changing so quickly it is a challenge to keep up.

Janie at ERA Conference, Monaco, 2010

ERA Europe: Do you have any special memories about the early days of ERA Europe and what does the ERA today mean to you?

Janie: My first ERA Europe conference was in Venice. I am not sure which year, possibly 1997. I made so many great contacts at that show – most of whom are still customers, suppliers and many I consider great personal friends. ERA Europe brings the industry together, makes it possible for us to meet in a comfortable, cost effective way, and allows us to have a wonderful time doing it! I don’t think I have missed one European conference since that year.

The stations of Janie's life and DR career:

Grew up in the UK: my father was a teacher and my mother a housewife

At 17, went to Goldsmiths Art School, London, followed by Teacher Training

Ghana 1971

1969 -1970 Gambia – Age 19 - Stayed with parents in Yundum for 6 months. Dated my husband (John) for 4 months before we became engaged. He stayed in Gambia for a few months more whilst I went home to arrange our wedding. We married 6 weeks after that and the following month we flew out to Ghana.

1971-1973 Ghana – Lived at Takoradi. Experienced two military coups and several house burglaries, but we did enjoy our time there.

1974 -1980 Malawi – Beautiful country. Lived in Zomba and Blantyre. Our two sons were born. Civil wars going on around us in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Mozambique, but Malawi was peaceful.

The Gambia, 1982

1980 – 1983 returned to Gambia – Pleased to return to the fabulous beaches of the Gambia. Our daughter was born. A failed coup left bullet holes in our garden wall!

1983 – 1984 Sierra Leone – Was a very difficult time. There was virtually no power, no petrol, no imported goods. We were very glad to leave!

1984 Nigeria - My husband went alone on a project whilst the country changed its currency.

Philippines, Manila 1986, just before the coup

1984 – 1988 Philippines – Manila. This was a very happy time for us, although we were obliged to keep our heads down during the Marcos coup (everyone remembers Imelda’s shoe collection!)

1988 – 1990 India – Mumbai. My husband had been at school in India in the 50’s so was interested to go back.

1990- 1991 Zambia – Lusaka. The country is beautiful, but it was a difficult time with many armed road-blocks, and all properties were heavily guarded.

1991 – 1992 Lesotho/South Africa (Ladybrand). As there were intermittent riots going on in Lesotho at the time, we lived over the border in South Africa. Tensions were a little high in South Africa too as this was shortly after Mandela’s release from prison. Absolutely stunning countries.

1992 returned to the UK

Janie with Emma and Liezl at the ERA Budapest Conference, 2019

1992 - 1995 working with friend Rupert Scott at his company, Worldwide Licensing, to put the first DR spots on UK TV (Channel 4)

1995 - 2000 Williams Worldwide Television, Oxfordshire, UK, moving to the London office in 1999 as International Sales Manager

2000 - today Director of International Sales, JML, UK (started as International Sales Manager, later becoming Head of International Sales until 2010 rising to Director)