The end of last year was tough going for home shopping networks.
On Tuesday QVC’s parent released fourth-quarter earnings, and the channel saw a dip in its sales, just like its rival HSN recently reported.
QVC’s U.S. revenue dropped 7 percent, to $1.9 billion in the fourth quarter and 2 percent, to $6.1 billion, in 2016, according to Liberty Interactive Corp.
“Internationally, QVC continues to perform well, while domestically we are focusing on strengthening a few merchandise categories that have been weak,” Liberty Interactive President and CEO Greg Maffei said in a canned statement.
HSN just had similar bad news to report. Its net sales dipped 1 percent, to $769.3 million, in the fourth quarter versus the prior year. In 2016, HSN’s sales were down 3 percent, to $2.5 billion.
QVC’s top honcho Mike George had a lot of ‘splaining to do. And he did.
“Our international segment generated strong results in the quarter with broad-based sales gains and margin expansion,” George said. “The sales trend in our U.S. business persisted from the third quarter primarily due to continued headwinds in select categories. We have strong action plans in place and are confident in our ability to return the US business to growth.”
“In 2016, we continued to significantly advance our digital platforms. eCommerce and mobile penetration grew approximately 260 and 800 basis points, respectively,” he said. “As we begin 2017, we are serving a large, engaged customer base, and we are creating competitive advantages as we further extend our reach across digital and next generation commerce platforms. We will leverage these strengths to build on our highly differentiated shopping experience.”
In the quarter, QVC’s average selling price per unit (“ASP”) decreased 8 percent to $56.78, units sold increased 1 percent, and returns as a percentage of gross product revenue improved 32 basis points. The U.S. experienced year-over-year declines in all categories except apparel.
For the year, ASP decreased 6 percent to $57, units sold increased 2 percent, and returns as a percentage of gross product revenue improved 104 basis points. Domestic QVC experienced year-over-year declines in jewelry, electronics and beauty, which were partially offset by gains in apparel, home and accessories.
E-commerce revenue decreased 1 percent to $1.1 billion and grew 326 basis points to 56 percent of total U.S. revenue in the quarter. For the year, e-commerce revenue increased 4 percent to $3.2 billion and rose 328 basis points to 52 percent of total U.S. revenue.
In the quarter, operating income decreased 15 percent to $303 million, operating income margin declined 143 basis points, adjusted OIBDA decreased 9 percent to $438 million and adjusted OIBDA margin declined 43 basis points, including the aforementioned cost allocations.
Excluding the cost allocations, adjusted OIBDA decreased 10 percent to $431 million and adjusted OIBDA margin declined about 80 basis points, primarily due to higher freight and warehouse expenses and lack of sales leverage.
For the year, operating income decreased 6 percent to $915 million, operating income margin declined 58 basis points, adjusted OIBDA decreased 2 percent to $1.4 billion and adjusted OIBDA margin was flat, including the aforementioned cost allocations.
Excluding the cost allocations, adjusted OIBDA decreased 4 percent to $1.4 billion and adjusted OIBDA margin decreased roughly 50 basis points, primarily due to lower product margins and higher bad debt, freight and warehouse expenses, which were partially offset by lower personnel expenses and favorable inventory obsolescence.
Beginning in the first quarter of 2016, QVC began allocating certain corporate costs for management reporting purposes differently, Liberty Interactive said in its press release.
Historically, QVC allocated these costs to the market from which the services were provided. As more of QVC’s costs support initiatives in multiple markets, QVC is allocating costs to the markets that will benefit from the expenditures. These management cost allocations are related to certain functions, such as merchandising, commerce platforms, information technology, human resources, legal, finance, brand and communications, corporate development and administration.
The cost allocations (from QVC U.S. to QVC International) totaled about $7 million in the fourth quarter and $31 million for 2016. As a result of the allocations, the U.S. segment’s operating income and adjusted OIBDA margins were each positively impacted approximately 35 basis points in the quarter and 50 basis points for the full year.