THE UK's TWO largest mail order businesses, accounting between them for 40.3% of the market, have jointly approached cable and satellite operator Flextech to discuss the setting-up of a dedicated home shopping channel. Great Universal Stores and Littlewoods are both eager to re-energise their fading mail order enterprises by opening new routes into customers' homes; Flextech too has ambitions to develop markets for its Home Shopping Network Direct Joint Venture, in which it bought a controlling interest last year - with readymade operations in Asia, Brazil, France and Spain. With the advent next year of digital TV and a plethora of new channels, home shopping looks a virtual cert for rapid growth.

In compliance with the EC Directive on TV Without Frontiers, the Independent Television Commission has sanctioned up to three hours weekly of home shopping, infomercial and advertorial slots on cable, satellite and new digital channels. Terrestrial channels are unaffected by the changes.