Back in the days when Claudia Lucas was first head buyer for beauty at Selfridges — a role she took on in 1999, and in 2004 left to become senior vice president and general merchandise manager of Henri Bendel — prestige beauty brands whispered about selling on QVC, but weren’t out bragging about it.

This story first appeared in the May 20, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

My, how things have changed.

“Back then, no one wanted to sell to us,” said Lucas. In her current role, Lucas manages a multimillion-dollar portfolio of brands through direct TV and e-commerce platforms — and beauty sales account for about 15 percent of QVC’s overall sales; beauty sales topped $800 million in the U.S. in 2010.

One of the major agents of change, she said, was Bare Escentuals founder Leslie Blodgett, “who was passionate about mineral makeup and came to QVC since she’d shopped the channel before and felt there was a market for her makeup,” said Lucas. Fast-forward to January 2010, and Blodgett sold the company to Shiseido for $1.7 billion. Lucas noted similar stories for Smashbox (later acquired by the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. for a reported $250 million); Philosophy (acquired first by the Carlyle Group for $475 million and then by Coty Inc. for $1 billion), and Ojon (acquired by Lauder for $45 million.)

What those brands all have in common is a passionate founder who could engage consumers on-air with a compelling story and a great product assortment, said Lucas.

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She noted that 95 percent of QVC’s buyers are repeat customers, making understanding those consumers and exceeding their expectations particularly critical. “We ask customers to review and endorse the products they buy — encompassing the good, the bad and the ugly — and we have community forums where consumers are encouraged to air their thoughts,” said Lucas, adding that she will shortly begin writing a beauty blog for the site. Several beauty brands, including Laura Geller and Mally, have their own forums on the site. Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, are also heavily used to market and obtain consumer insights. A QVC Everywhere mobile app, launched in March, has already topped 45,000 downloads.

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