QVC is doubling down on its commitment to adaptive clothing and accessible home products and has named actor, author and disability advocate Selma Blair as its “brand ambassador” for accessibility.
Executives told WWD that the company has launched a dedicated accessible and adaptive category spanning fashion, home, electronics and beauty, with a digital storefront for these products that provides navigation and options to filter by adaptive features for easier shopping.
In addition, QVC, a division of the Qurate Retail Group, has introduced “Accessible Living,” an on-air show focused on “essential home products that simplify everyday tasks and promote independent living.”
The strategy reflects efforts by QVC to be more inclusive in its product offerings and messaging, and call out products designed to accommodate those with disabilities, illnesses, injuries, recovering from surgery or aging. It’s about tapping a big market that is underserved. According to statistics researched by QVC, more than 60 million Americans, or roughly 25 percent of the population, live with a temporary or lifelong disability, and 56 million Americans are 65 or older.
Blair, whose breakout movie roles were in “Cruel Intentions” and “Legally Blonde,” will be advising QVC on accessible and adaptive collections, and appear in QVC videos and on QVC Live. In 2018, she revealed her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis. Her bestselling book “Mean Baby” and documentary “Introducing, Selma Blair” chronicles Blair’s life after being diagnosed with MS. She travels extensively speaking about disability and inclusion, and 2017, she was named one of Time Magazine’s People of the Year as a “silence breaker.” She also worked with Google on its accessible marketing playbook and has appeared in ad campaigns for Chanel, Miu Miu and Marc Jacobs.
Blair recently became chief creative officer at Guide Beauty, a cosmetics company that uses “design-for-all” concepts to provide options to apply makeup.
“People are looking to solve a wide range of accessibility needs when they go shopping,” Blair told WWD. “But we all want to have fun and find things that work for us and match our personalities. One of the basic comforts of our life is being able to have fun shopping and to find things we find beautiful and useful. I love the way QVC tells stories; it’s so much more than just selling things. There is a more vibrant way to showcase these products. The hosts and guests create warm, welcoming spaces, where everyone can feel like they belong. I think QVC is changing retail for the better.”
QVC has been selling adaptive clothing for only about 18 months, and accessible home products for much longer.
“For 2023 and beyond, we are really looking to expand our assortments of these products,” Rachel Ungaro, QVC’s general merchandise manager and vice president of fashion merchandising, told WWD. “There’s definitely the opportunity to get into some additional categories. We plan to expand our offerings in our accessible and adaptive category by attracting new brands to QVC, widening our relationships with existing vendors, and developing proprietary products and brands.
“In apparel, it’s the full gamut. We’re offering tops, bottoms — both seated as well as standing — intimate apparel and we’re just venturing now into footwear where we’ve done some testing. The accessory side of this business is an untapped category for us. It will all continue to build as we continue to launch new collections.”
Clothes that are adaptive and accessible could, for example, be designed with magnetic closures, hooks and loops, or wider fits. Seated and standing fits make bottoms more accessible for wheelchair users.
“We also have to think about apparel from the lens of someone helping someone get dressed, from the caregiver’s point of view,” Ungaro said. “QVC has adaptive apparel that assists the caregiver in getting someone dressed with ease.”
On the home side, QVC sells, among other products, those that assist with mobility such as walkers, wheelchairs, chairs with motorized lifts to help people stand up and scooters, as well as adaptive grooming tools and magnifiers — and the offering is expanding. “Kitchen and culinary is an area that we’re just venturing into right now,” Ungaro added.
“Many of these categories, particularly in home, we’ve carried for a long time. But we are really tailoring how we speak to the categories both on air and off air — the terminology we use, adding to our descriptors, being able to tell about all the functionalities of the products that we might not have touched on in the past,” Ungaro said. “We’re really being much more overt about the ways that this community can use these types of products.
“In adaptive apparel, it’s mostly been [available] online, but we are able to bring those products to our live broadcasts, where we can really demonstrate how these products work.”
Ungaro acknowledged that other companies and websites are also in this business. “But it’s our unique ability, our storytelling at QVC that brings these products to life and that can aid this community and help them make the right decisions for themselves and help the people that are caring for them make the right decisions.”
Some key brands selling adaptive and accessible products on QVC are Tommy Hilfiger, Slick Chicks for underwear and loungewear, Seven7 denim, Vionic for supportive footwear, Aloe Care Healthy for emergency response devices, Lexie B2 rechargeable hearing aids by Bose, EV Rider mobility scooters, and Carex for mobility aids, bath safety and pain management equipment.
In addition to working with Blair, QVC is teaming with Maura Horton, a disability diversity and inclusion consultant who started her career in product design and development. After her husband was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, Horton began to develop adaptive clothing. With QVC, she’ll be helping to select products and highlight them through QVC’s storytelling, finesse the messaging so it speaks to the customer in an appropriate way, and is accessible on emails and on the website.
“In the past, adaptive clothing has been very hospital-like and lacked quality. But brands are now understanding there is much broader opportunity here, because the market is so large,” Horton said. “It’s really about marrying the fashion and the function together, and QVC is in the position to be able to demonstrate both. With true adaptive fashion, you should not be able to tell that there is a different method to access the garment. It will look exactly alike on the outside. But it’s the inside that has the adaptability features, regardless of what they are.”
Horton said QVC, with its livestream v-commerce platforms and brand relationships, is in a unique position to “curate products and tell human stories that demonstrate the arc of life.”
“We believe everyone deserves inclusive shopping experiences, services and products that make them feel seen, including the millions of Americans who are living with a disability; aging in place or in assisted living; recovering from surgery, illness or injury,” Ungaro said.
Asked if adaptive and accessible products cost more due to how they are designed, Ungaro replied, “I don’t see a big price difference, but it is something we have to continue to look at.” She said since styles in misses and large sizes are priced the same on QVC, with adaptive fashion, “We have to make sure we put the same value lens on this.”
“QVC is so price conscious as is this market where many people are on fixed incomes, or at an older stage in life where they have less disposable income,” Horton added. “QVC will definitely serve this consumer by making sure it’s in line with their pricing strategies.”
QVC has a task force leading the accessibility initiative including individuals from disability and caregiving communities and from QVC’s diversity, equity and inclusion team.
“Offering inclusive sizing is something QVC has been doing since Day One,” Ungaro said. “So entering this space is very natural for us and feels like the right thing to do. This journey is personal for many team members. We know this is a long-term project, with plenty to learn along the way.”
QVC’s next episode of “Accessible Living,” will be on QVC2, March 14 at noon EST, and can also be seen on QVC March 30 at 1 p.m. EST.