Lights, Camera, Retail
By Tom Ryan
While Madonna heads to Macy’s to launch her first fashion collection,
Mariah Carey has chosen HSN. The singer’s first lifestyle collection, including
jewelry, shoes and perfume, represents the latest coup for HSN CEO Mindy Grossman
in her mission to upgrade the drab reputation of television shopping.
joining HSN in 2006, the former Nike and Polo executive has brought in a number
of celebrity-endorsed lines, including ones from Venus Williams, Liza Minnelli,
Twiggy, Wolfgang Puck and Mary J. Blige. But she’s also raised the overall
quality and cachet of product across the line. That included gaining big names
from the fashion world such as the American Glamour line with Badgley Mischka,
Curations with Stefani Greenfield, a lifestyle line by the Scoop founder, and
new fragrances from Sean Jean.
Part of her job was convincing many of these
high-profile celebrities and designers to sell their wares on a channel once
known for pushing Suzanne Somers’ ThighMaster. According to a profile on the
company in Bloomberg Businessweek,
studio sets were streamlined, green rooms spruced up, and full-time make-up
artists and hair stylists were hired. Andrew Sheldon, a British television
executive, was also hired to coach the hosts on their presentations.
“Before, there was a lot of finger pointing. They spoke too quickly
and too loudly,” said Mr. Sheldon. “Selling doesn’t mean you have
to shout ‘Buy it! Buy it!'”
Recognizing that her competition was not so
much retailers, but lifestyle television networks such as the Food Network,
Style, HDTV and DIY, studio sets were upgraded and more time was spent finding
the right on-air personalities and coaching them.
“If they don’t want to go on air, then they don’t want to work with us
— they’re not passionate,” Ms. Grossman told Bloomberg Businessweek. “The
whole idea is to bring more than just a product. It’s to bring a voice. Their
personality has to show through. I keep telling people that it’s a trunk show
in 93 million homes.”
The final step was to improve customer service. According
to a Footwear
that included bringing 100 percent of its call center force back to the U.S.,
elevating their pay scales as well as improving quality standards down to the
packages received by customers. Notes are now sent to best customers. In 2009,
HSN ranked in the top 10 in the American Express/National Retail Federation
survey of best companies for customer service.
“We have a mechanism we use where if a product triggers on three different
measures — returns, customer-service complaints and reviews — we
immediately pull the item off the website and stop selling it,” Ms. Grossman
told Footwear News.
Despite the downturn, HSN’s sales grew three percent in both 2008 and 2009.
HSN did $2 billion in sales last year.
Ms. Grossman recently told stylist.com, “The
most important thing was getting that gravitas credibility in each of the categories
of what was a great product and what was a great story and who were great storytellers
… because it’s about authenticity, too.”
Discussion Questions: What do think of Mindy’s Grossman’s strategy to improve
the shopping experience at HSN? What else could help television shopping broaden
- Birkin or Beckham or Both?… Mariah Carey’s Designs… – Women’s
Wear Daily (sub. required)
- Q&A With Mindy Grossman – Footwear News (sub. required)
- HSN’s Fashionista – Bloomberg Businessweek
- HSN Evolves into Storyteller of Shopping Channels, Driven by CEO Who’s Her
Own Biggest Customer – stylist.com