Catching Up With: Retail Dynamo Betsy Olum

After spending a decade at Sephora, the beauty executive recently opted to become general manager of beauty and merchandising strategy for HSN.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 11/11/2011

Betsy Olum is a pro at changing channels. The veteran executive left a relatively traditional career in beauty to join one of the U.S.’ biggest beauty retail game-changers, Sephora. After spending a decade there as senior vice president of marketing, she recently opted for another game-changing move: to become general manager of beauty and merchandising strategy for HSN, responsible for developing and implementing merchandising strategies designed to maximize HSN’s beauty business. In this role, which she assumed earlier this year, she oversees the multichannel retailer’s beauty division and works across divisions to identify strategies to position HSN for accelerated growth.

This story first appeared in the November 11, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.


Why the change?


“Sephora was a big catalyst for change in the beauty-retail landscape: It let the customer be the person who was in charge, rather than being bounced around from counter to counter and sold to,” says Olum. “TV selling is an extension of that thinking. We have the ability to tell the story right to the consumer, and to show her exactly how the product can be used.”


Olum thrives on the immediacy of the medium.


“At Sephora, when the doors closed for the day, they stayed closed, and we revisited the store in the morning. This is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year business,” says Olum.


“There’s a ticker at the bottom of the screen showing what has been sold; no waiting for results. You know right away if what you’re doing is successful, and if it’s not, you can readjust immediately. It’s pure adrenaline.”


One common thread through all of her business endeavors?


“Have great respect for your customer; they have a very powerful voice. And be entertaining. We have to make it fun for her to shop.”

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