Get this: both the Atlantic Monthly and Bloomberg Businessweek have stories on home shopping networks, namely QVC and HSN, respectively. Thanks to our friend Mike Squires for tipping us off to this.
If you are home shopping fans, we think you’ll enjoy the behind-the-scenes look these two articles offers.
The Atlantic story is headlined “The Genius of QVC,” and author Megan McArdle fesses up to being “a closet fan” of the No. 1 home shopping network. She bases much of her story on a tour she took of QVC’s studio in West Chester, Pa.
The article offers up many facts about QVC that we were never aware of.
“QVC’s merchandising power has nurtured blockbuster brands like Spanx body shapers — and whole sub-industries that help entrepreneurs get their products onto the shopping network (or at least claim to),” the story says. “The company’s allure is so powerful that Marlon Brando reportedly sought to become one of its celebrity presenters during his final, cash-strapped, obese, and depressed years.”
The article, which is well worth reading, also discusses the emotional tie that viewers develop with home shopping hosts.
“As one young woman said about her grandmother, whom she was accompanying on the tour, ‘She talks about them like they’re her friends,’” the article says. “Her grandmother also buys half a dozen items a week. QVC is expert at creating what consumer psychologists call ‘parasocial relationships’ — bonds that tickle our subconscious in many of the ways that real friendships do.”
The story in Bloomberg Businessweek, titled “HSN’s Fashionista,” focuses on the changes that CEO Mindy Grossman has brought to the No. 2 home shopping network.
The story kicks off describing HSN as the home of Suzanne Somers and her ThighMaster to tennis champ Serena Williams blowing out her HSN line, but jewelry to apparel.
“When Grossman was recruited for the job in 2006 by Barry Diller, chief executive of HSN’s then-corporate parent AC/InterActiveCorp, she told Diller that she would accept only if he gave her the freedom to turn the place upside down,” the story says.
“She wanted to transform HSN by making it more modern and tasteful: Maybe it would never be hip, it certainly wouldn’t try to be edgy, but it could at least be relevant,” Bloomberg Businessweek says.
Grossman viewed HSN a second-rate QVC, and went about changing that.
CEO Mindy Grossman lured high-end designers to HSN
“Within her first year at the company, she dumped about a dozen brands she had never heard of,” the story says. “Gone were the pants with elastic waists and anything that viewers could easily find elsewhere. Then she set out to create a studio environment that wouldn’t scare off the designers she hoped to feature. For that she turned to Andrew Sheldon, a British television executive. He streamlined the sets, cleaned up the green rooms, hired full-time makeup artists and hair stylists, and modulated the hosts’ presentations.”
The story says “Grossman, 52, is sleek and stylish, and she likes to pile on the necklaces and bracelets when she dresses. If women ask her for advice about accessories, she always says: ‘more.'” It doesn’t get into the fact that Grossman likes to show a little cleavage during business presentations.
Want to know how Grossman got those fancy Manhattan designers to come over to the dark side?
“In order to attract more power shoppers, Grossman set out to persuade a whole new type of designer to create collections for HSN.” the story says. “Among those who have happily, if nervously, appeared on the network as a result of Grossman’s coaxing are Naeem Khan, who designed the silver sequined gown Michelle Obama wore to the President’s first state dinner, and Badgley Mischka, who dressed Helen Mirren in gray silk and organza for this year’s Academy Awards. Grossman promised to protect them and their brands from ridicule and to present their clothes in sophisticated settings as she exposed them to an audience far greater than they could otherwise reach. She also charmed them.”
This valentine to Grossman closes with Williams, and offers some hard numbers.
“During her 24-hour visit, HSN sold $3.25 million worth of products; Williams accounted for about one-third of it. The 1,900 pairs of jeans are gone. So are the maxi dresses,” the story says.