NEW YORK -- As new entries in the home shopping field try to redefine the medium, they're confounding headhunters in their quest for "hybrid" executives.
Without an established job pool, TV shopping concerns have tapped retailers, producers and catalogers, hoping this melting pot of talent will gel to produce a successful home shopping team. Most often, home shopping networks are defining the job qualifications of their senior executives as they go along.
"There is a lot of jury-rigging of talent," said R. Fulton Macdonald, president of International Business Development, a retail consulting firm.. "A lot of the people being put in front-line positions are really a stretch, but there is not a body of expertise to tap yet. There is not an established core of proven winners."
Time Warner, which hired Gordon Cooke as president of interactive merchandising, is solidly staffed in the areas of technology and programming. Cooke, who was chairman of Bloomingdale's By Mail, brings a knowledge of cataloging and contacts with manufacturers.
"Having people that have a direct-response background is somewhat more advantageous to having someone who has had a retailing background," Cooke said. "They are used to projecting and maintaining high-inventory levels of key items. That's a different skill set."
Keith Halford, chief executive officer of RSTV, a home shopping network based in Knoxville, Tenn., agreed.
"We focus on direct response professionals because they have more of a single-item orientation rather than a complete-line orientation," he said. "TV shopping tends to offer more depth in selective items, but not lots of breadth." Candice Carpenter, the former president of Time-Life Video and Television, who was hired by QVC Inc. to run Q2, has surrounded herself with an eclectic staff that includes former senior executives of Barneys New York, Go Silk, Reebok International and Fox Television.
According to sources, the staff, while highly energetic and creative, has had some trouble homing in on a concept.
"The Q2 staff is small and they haven't defined their focus yet," Macdonald said. "Carpenter's style is that of modest chaos. It's a little freewheeling."
Carpenter said having broadcasters and retailers on the same staff is working well. The structure of the office, which is totally open, has encouraged collaboration.
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