QVC, on the other hand, offers few, if any, shoes that push the $200 mark. Monahan, for one, isn’t selling footwear on QVC at the same price points she offers at her two luxury Boston-based boutiques. Every style in her value-priced Gretta footwear brand, owned by Brown Shoe Co., retails for less than $100.
Retail consultant Walter Loeb, president of Loeb Associates, said he believes the home-shopping business is “still highly promotional. It’s very dependent on the immediate action by the consumer. Obviously, price is important and plays a big role in getting as much traction as possible for each product. I don’t think that’s ever going to change.”
ShopNBC, which ranks third in size in the home-shopping world, is battling the contracting economy with a revamped strategy that includes lower price points and more inclusivity. “In the past, we leaned more toward the luxury end of the multichannel world,” said Kris Kulesza, SVP of merchandising for ShopNBC. But as consumers abandon luxury retailers for better pricing paradigms, she said, “we’ve been moving to a wider, broader [price] assortment to capture more of the market.”
Kulesza, who worked at HSN for nine years, said ShopNBC’s fashion strategy is still a work in progress, since the company has “never had a significant presence” in the apparel and accessories markets. However, she said she does know that pricing needs to come down in order to gain market share in the home-shopping medium. “Strategically, we need to be in many more categories and businesses to bring in more customers. But we’re still in the midst of hammering out the details of a strategy.”
Elaine Turner sells her handbags and footwear on ShopNBC and confirmed the changing price dynamics at the network. “I have a higher price point than what they’d like to see,” she said, noting that her handbags and shoes, which sell at retailers such as Nordstrom and Piperlime.com, range from $100 to $400. “They were successful with [my line], but now they’re trying to go head-to-head with QVC and HSN and compete more on price.”
Turner plans to launch a less expensive capsule collection for ShopNBC called Escape by Elaine Turner, which has average price points of about $100. “The customer got more value conscious and is looking for ShopNBC to be more price sensitive,” she said. Still, fashion is the driving force behind her best-selling item, a tropical novelty flip-flop.
At QVC, value and comfort must be intrinsic in all fashion items, even in the context of a style show, explained host Robertson before her appearance with Monahan on “PM Style.” “If it’s a beautiful shoe that’s just for sitting down, it’s not a shoe we want to sell.”
In fact, during the Monahan segment that night, more than half the allotted eight minutes was spent touting the footwear’s comfort characteristics.
QVC’s Mike George noted that the network won’t overbuy into fashion footwear at the risk of alienating its core customers. “For the most part, we think fashion needs to be coupled with comfort or technology,” he said, noting that brands such as Birkenstock, Clarks and Ryka remain significant footwear partners for QVC. “We pride ourselves on selling fashion for real women leading real lives.”
Shelly Glasgow, director of product development and merchandising with Birkenstock USA, which has been selling on QVC for 12 years, said the brand is one of QVC’s largest shoe labels. “We are really addressing QVC’s core consumer,” she said.
Clarks has been with QVC for more than a decade, and Steven Mahoney, its VP of sales, said the brand continues to get more prime-time selling slots based on its strong performance.
Even HSN, which moved more aggressively into fashion than its competitors, does a big business with comfort brands Earth and Born, said Grossman, and requires comfort characteristics in its fashion shoes.
Paul Auersperg, CEO of Fortune Footwear, which manufactures more than 10 HSN footwear brands, including Miss Tina, Hot in Hollywood and the forthcoming Chi, said that every shoe he makes is offered in a wide width and runs up to a size 12. Twenty-five percent of purchases in his shoe lines are made in wide widths, he added.
“The national demographic is not 5-foot, 5-inches, 120 pounds,” said Auersperg. “I’ve got a 4-inch bird-cage stiletto in a size 12-wide just waiting for [the HSN customer]. That’s America!”
HSN’s Lauren Pestronk said she believes TV-shopping will only gain fashion credibility. “People used to say, ‘How can you do that to your brand?’ But now we have a list of designers waiting to meet with us. Home shopping is what’s happening now. It’s the in thing to do.”