QVC SHARPENS ITS BEAUTY VISION
Byline: Laura Klepacki
WEST CHESTER, Pa. — QVC is giving definition to its amorphous beauty business.
Last month, the 14-year-old shopping channel introduced a logo — a red image of a woman’s figure above the word “qvcbeauty” — essentially branding its operation.
Along with the logo, QVC has produced a 30-second image-oriented promotion that will run periodically during its beauty shows and prior to the broadcast of beauty shows. “The logo is a way to link it all together,” said Allen Burke, director of merchandising, beauty for QVC. “It is to let people know we are serious.”
To build the network’s awareness, it ran cosmetics advertisements for the first time last fall in the New York Times on such brands as Philosophy, Borghese and Smash Box, which it now offers.
More QVC beauty ads are planned this spring. Other QVC brands are Tony and Tina, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Hard Candy, Caswell-Massey, Sanofi Concepts Lipfactor items, Janet Sartin, Dermablend, Poetic wax from Bliss Spa, Tova, Diane Young and La Mirador.
“We want to have consumers say, ‘Wow. I didn’t know QVC sold that,”‘ said Robert Ayd, vice president of apparel and beauty. “We want to be accepted as a credible retailer in the [beauty] marketplace and with customers.”
The channel’s beauty sales are expected to exceed $200 million this year, up from $160 million in 1998. Its health care brands are expected to bring in another $100 million. QVC executives are proud of what they have accomplished, but yearn to make beauty a hallmark QVC category, as jewelry has become. “We want to be known as the beauty channel,” said Burke. “From a consumer standpoint, we want to be top of mind.”
To do that, QVC will emphasize what it does best — deliver programs offering entertainment and education, with brands that fit three criteria: It must be a product QVC buyers believe in, it must further QVC’s goal of becoming “the” beauty channel and it must look as if it belongs in a specialty store, said Burke.
To develop strong brands, QVC won’t mark down merchandise, and it tests the products it sells. “We go through hoops with claims. We never, ever want to make false claims,” said Ayd.
What links QVC’s jewelry and beauty businesses is they are both “products that need explanation,” said Burke. “In a very nonintimidating way, we can do it.”
That kind of programming was seen recently in an hour-long broadcast for its signature Models Prefer cosmetics collection, created by former model Stacey Schieffelin, who’s also its spokeswoman.
Schieffelin typically begins her show with a bare face and her hair in rollers. She then discusses makeup techniques as she applies foundation, blush and mascara to herself while answering questions from callers. Like Schieffelin, viewers say Leslie Blodgell, creator of Bare Escentuals, infuses her personality into broadcasts for that line.
QVC has also taken some lessons from the rising tide of beauty Internet sites. Since January it has set up home pages for Models Prefer and Bare Escentuals that can be accessed directly or through its e-commerce site — IQVC. In January it began offering live online beauty advisers for Models Prefer. The service will be offered on more QVC brands in the future as advisers are trained on products. And last year it began telephone customer service on Bare Escentuals and has since added Models Prefer, La Mirador and Diane Young.
Internet startups, ostensibly competition for QVC, as they are for any cosmetics vendor, could actually help QVC’s cause by making consumers more accustomed to buying electronically, say QVC executives. “We think acceptance of the Internet enhances our business,” said Ayd. “Using charge cards in a different manner helps us.” While its television sales are still far stronger, QVC expects its Internet beauty business to double this year from $7 million to about $15 million.
QVC is now received in some 73 million U.S. homes, yet “many people still don’t understand what QVC is,” commented Burke.
So other efforts are under way to mold QVC’s image as a beauty authority. This spring, Bare Escentuals is a sponsor of the Elite Model Search, a 21-city program that scouts malls for talent. Bare Escentuals makeup artists will give makeovers, beauty advice and pass out gift sample bags. And QVC fashion and beauty buyers plan to work together more closely to present viewers with trend information. There could even be cross-merchandising of fashion and beauty products on the air and in catalogs.
With a goal of “changing the way the world shops,” Burke said, “QVC is in it for the long haul.”