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QVC U.K.’s Rough Channel Crossing

LONDON -- QVC is learning some hard lessons from its first venture into Europe.<BR><BR>QVC-The Shopping Channel, launched in the U.K. last October, has by no means taken Britain by storm.<BR><BR>Apparel and jewelry have been a harder sell than kitchen...

LONDON — QVC is learning some hard lessons from its first venture into Europe.

QVC-The Shopping Channel, launched in the U.K. last October, has by no means taken Britain by storm.

Apparel and jewelry have been a harder sell than kitchen gadgets and gizmos. In addition, analysts have said that the 24-hour-a-day shopping channel has only limited impact due to the low penetration of cable and satellite TV in the U.K. Out of the 25 million cable and satellite homes in the U.K., the channel reaches only about 3 million.

However, QVC is planning some changes for its merchandise mix. To enhance its fashion credibility, it will reduce the amount of unbranded merchandise — such as generic jogging suits — in favor of designer collections developed for the channel.

The Shopping Channel, a joint venture between QVC Network and Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting, is meeting its targets since it was launched, according to Peter Risdale, chief executive officer. However, he declined to elaborate.

“The lessons we have learned on the sell-throughs will help us better balance our product offering in 1994,” Risdale said. “Initially we sold a little of everything to gauge reaction to the service. Now we will offer more of what we know we can sell. We will go narrow and deep rather than broad and shallow.”

The Shopping Channel plans major changes in its apparel business.

“We expect apparel to be slower to build than some of the other categories, but within a year I think there will be substantial growth,” Risdale said. “Within two to three years, jewelry and apparel will account for about 60 percent of our offering.”

According to Risdale, they now account for about 45 to 50 percent of sales.

The Shopping Channel has signed British designers Zandra Rhodes and Elizabeth Emanuel to do women’s collections. Rhodes will do two. The first will be shown in late February and the second in March. They will be mainly cotton jersey casualwear in Rhodes’s ethnic prints.

The collections are being sold under the same structure QVC uses with some designers in the U.S. Rhodes said she is assuming the financial risk for manufacturing and ordering the pieces.

Rhodes said if the collections are successful in the U.K., they might appear on QVC in the U.S.

The agreement with Emanuel is different. The designer, who already has appeared on The Shopping Channel selling champagne and chocolates, will do a 90-minute show every week or two, offering everything from apparel to accessories to home furnishings.

All the merchandise will be designed or sourced by Emanuel and bought by The Shopping Channel. The show will begin in March.

Emanuel said the format offers significant room for expansion into other product categories, such as dress patterns and fashion videos.

She also sees potential to offer U.S. merchandise and is searching for an American partner to help her source items there.

“The program will be about building up a basic wardrobe,” Emanuel said. “There also will be guests who may have their own products to sell. It’s aimed at improving the apparel offering because the clothes [QVC] has at the moment are boring with no look or style. QVC needs designer names at the moment.”