We’ve chronicled two instances now where customers of QVC and ShopNBC have become livid, and threatened to boycott those networks, because the two channels were getting rid of two popular personalities.
In the most recent brouhaha, more “mature” QVC shoppers were ready to tar and feather QVC president Mike George and John Malone and Gref Maffei, who run QVC’s parent Liberty Media, when they got word that the home shopping channel was dropping designer Louis Dell’Olio’s line.
Linea Ladies (named after his QVC Linea collection) this week mounted a focused campaign to keep Dell’Olio on the air, setting up a Twitter account, bombarding the offices of George and Malone with phone calls, and writing to these executives.
Who knows what will happen ultimately. Campaigns like this, no matter how passionate the protesters, seldom work.
But the “Ladies” seem to have made some progress last week on behalf of Dell’Olio. The award-winning designer wrote on his blog Friday that QVC officials now want to meet with him to discuss the future of his line for them. Prior to that, Dell’Olio said that QVC had informed him that it would stop placing orders for his line in the fall.
Customer relations are not much better at ShopNBC, where angry viewers are still shocked that the No. 3 shopping network canned spike-haired Rines, a loud-mouthed but popular host, back in January. Our blogs about Rines have received the most traffic of any items on this site, and more than 80 people have posted comments damning ShopNBC for letting Rines go.
These ShopNBC customers are also posting that the network had gone down the toilet in terms of the quality of its merchandise, especially the high-end jewelry that Rines used to do presentations on.
What’s going on here? You are seeing customer reaction to major changes in strategy at both QVC and ShopNBC.
HSN is making similar changes, but even when veteran vendor Suzanne Somers left last fall after more than a decade at the network, there was no viewer ire. We guess that’s because she had her new home-shopping gig set up — moving over to ShopNBC.
With the recession, it’s a tough environment out there for home shopping networks. Gems TV went black last Thursday, and has filed for Chaper 11 bankruptcy protection. QVC, HSN and ShopNBC obviously don’t want to suffer a similar fate.
All three home shopping networks have shifted their strategies. For one, they have changed their product mixes to include less jewelry (which apparently no one but us is buying nowadays) and much more beauty and consumer electronics producs.
QVC and HSN are going in similar directions in many respects: In particular, they are replacing their older clothing lines with hipper fashions by younger designers. So for example, you have HSN CEO Mindy Grossman bringing in higher-end design talent like Badgley Mischka, Naeem Khan and Stephani Greenfield to the network.
In the case of QVC and Dell’Olio, he makes gorgeous classic tailored clothes, the kind of garments that women my age love. But QVC is trying to attract new, younger viewers, and has brought in more fashion-forward designers such as Isaac Mizrahi and Chloe Dao with their edgier fashions.
Linea Ladies pointed out to QVC that they have lots more disposal income than the kids, and that younger shoppers are fickle and unloyal. Good points.
If you read QVC’s online forums, you will soon learn that the Linea Ladies don’t like the new designers like Mizrahi, and that they feel they are being swept aside in the home shopping channel’s push to draw new shoppers. And these women are probably right.
That age issue is also at the center of customer anger over ShopNBC letting Rines go: She was not a 20-something, she was maybe a 50-something. The new generic, picture perfect hosts that ShopNBC has hired just don’t cut the mustard, according to Rines’s fans.
With her bright red lipstick and short platinum blonde hair, Rines didn’t look or act like any other host on a home shopping channel. She was outspoken, blunt, sarcastic and had a real edge to her. She drove us nuts sometimes, but at least she didn’t have the nauseatingly sweet, unskeptical persona of many home-shopping network hosts.
ShopNBC’s situation, except for it getting rid of an older talent, is opposite of QVC’s and HSN’s. Chief Keith Stewart is trying to make the No. 3 home shopping channel less upscale, lowering the average price of its merchandise. You won’t see many $20,000 rings being sold on ShopNBC now, the way you used to.
And he is widening ShopNBC’s product mix to be more like QVC and HSN, in that the No. 3 home shopping network is now selling gourmet food and even 3D HDTV sets (before its two rivals did).
All three home shopping channels will soon be reporting their first-quarter earnings. They have been seeing rising sales, so maybe their new strategies are working.
But their core customers are not happy. And those are the shoppers that they depend on to come back again and again.