Sephora’s drive to extend its reach is being beamed across the television airwaves with the debut today of a series of one-hour shows on Home Shopping Network.
The French-based beauty retail chain is broadcasting four shows today — at 1 a.m., 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. — from its Fifth Avenue store near 48th Street in New York. A trio of personalities — Julie Redfern, the Sephora beauty editor, and Dianna Perkovic and Collen Lopez from HSN — will pitch Sephora’s top picks for holiday gifts and beauty tips to navigate a season of partying. The initial program will focus on bestsellers from nine core brands and its own label.
“Our hosts are there to editorialize,” said Betsy Olum, senior vice president of marketing at Sephora. “They are not there to hawk products; they are there to describe trends and show new product.”
She described the broadcasts as the preview shows, with a regular schedule starting in February and plans calling for five hours of programming per month from a permanent set that will be built in HSN’s headquarters in St. Petersburg, Fla. It will be complete with prominent Sephora signage and fixtures designed to create an in-store ambience.
“We believe there is a huge market out there,” Olum said, “with more demand than we can satisfy by building 30 or 40 new stores a year.”
While Sephora has steamed ahead with store openings, the retailer also has relentlessly pursued what Sephora president David Suliteanu calls “brand enhancement opportunities.” First, the company, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, struck up a partnership in March with Klinger Advanced Aesthetics to tap into the burgeoning consumer demand for spa treatments. Then in late September, J.C. Penney Co. unveiled new and renovated stores containing sizable Sephora store-within-store boutiques. “Penney’s gave us the opportunity to reach out to a new clientele who may not have previously shopped us before,” Olum said, adding the reduced and edited assortment in the Penney’s boutiques “allows them to shop for beauty in a different way. The assortment is smaller and more focused and isn’t overwhelming.”
And there seemed to be no objections from Penney’s to Sephora’s latest move. “Anything that Sephora does to raise brand awareness is a benefit to J.C. Penney,” said Darcie Brossart, vice president of corporate communications.
The appeal of HSN has become apparent to Sephora. “Whenever any of our brands would go on TV there would be a lift in our store business,” Olum said. The appeal of the shopping channel is evident from the statistics Olum ticked off: HSN reaches 89 million households, 75 percent of customers are female, the average age is 25 to 54, and the average household income is $61,000 a year.
Olum underscored the potential and discussed why Sephora decided on HSN, rather than QVC, and alluded to the apparent desire to move the network’s programming forward by Mindy Grossman, chief executive officer of the parent IAC/Interactive Corp., headed by Barry Diller.
“First and foremost, HSN did not have a broad beauty offering, so there was an amazing and immediate opportunity for us,” Olum stated. “Additionally, with their great demographics and Mindy Grossman at the helm, the partnership promises to be even more exciting.”
Today’s Sephora preview will feature bestsellers from nine of the retailer’s core brands, including Make Up For Ever, Cargo, Dior, The Balm, T3 hair dryers, Oscar Blandi, Urban Decay, Lip Fusion and the Sephora brand of bath and body care and accessories and implements. These brands also are expected to return in the February lineup, which currently is being put together by Nicole Frusci, director of brand marketing for Sephora. Spokesmen, experts and in-house makeup artists also will make appearances on the shows; for instance, Oscar Blandi was scheduled to appear in the 9 a.m. segment.
Michael Henry, vice president of merchandising for beauty at HSN, noted that Ken Pavés appeared on a show in October selling hair extensions. The show rang up four times the expected sales and the customer age was seven years younger than the average, he said.
Scott Sanborn, senior vice president of marketing, said the emphasis in the Sephora-HSN shows will be “on new discoveries in products and new ideas on how to use products.” For instance, Dior is featuring a new mascara and Lip Fusion has a holiday set. Olum said that as in the case of Penney’s, Sephora is offering its best picks of its core vendors, not slanting its assortment for TV.
HSN now has core beauty business, with its major brands consisting of Susan Lucci, Lauren Hutton and Marilyn Miglin.
Henry said he sees opportunity to build up the color cosmetics and hair categories. He said skin care now does about 50 percent of the portfolio, and he would like it to represent only 40 percent. Conversely, makeup now claims 25 percent, and Henry would like it to be 35 percent.
Sanborn said the hookup with Sephora was attractive because the specialty chain’s image as “the beauty authority” provides a platform of credibility for the network. But HSN apparently has built up its own following in beauty. Sanborn noted the channel has had no problem selling beauty serums priced over $100 apiece. White noted the market perceptions have changed dramatically since the Eighties, when home television shopping was first introduced. The mass-class divide has completely blurred and so have the boundaries between price points.
The HSN executives also expect the Sephora shows to have a ripple effect. Two of the Sephora brands, Lip Fusion and Go Smile, have been scheduled for their own shows in January. The promotional theme running through that month will be “the new you.” The HSN approach is highly editorial with tightly edited offerings and live demonstrations that can be very persuasive. Sanborn noted, “What works on TV is being able to show dramatic results, and that can really drive sales.”
Henry added, “We are curating the assortment” and picking up marketing materials from the Sephora Web site. With the explosion in lifestyle retailing, the HSN-Sephora pitch will be: “‘Here are the five things you need to buy,’ and that is how we get into the homes.” He added, “We really are presenting the product to the customer in more of a problem-solving way than as marketing.”
News is also a factor. Sanborn pointed out that Clever Carriage Co. sold out of 11 styles of handbags by showing different looks. It took 40 minutes, well short of the hour that was allotted.
Sephora’s Olum sees the opportunity of entering so many households. “This is a destination for them. They flip on the TV and are ready to shop.”
White also sees a chance to acquaint his customer with the world of Sephora. “Probably what will happen is that there will be a customer who will be educated about Sephora.”