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HSN makes its beauty mark in the world of boundary-less shopping

April 2, 2011 |  8:01 am

When  Home Shopping Network changed its name to HSN several years ago, it was going for a catchier, more modern moniker.  But the name change also portended changes in the way consumers interact with, shop and purchase from this and other companies.

Mindygrossman It's not just about shopping from home  anymore, Chief Executive Mindy Grossman explained at a meeting of the Cosmetic Executive Women in Santa Monica on Thursday night and in a phone interview later. 

First, if you think that the majority of HSN viewers (87% are women, by the way) are lonely, middle-aged housewives who have nothing better to do than compulsively watch TV, shop by telephone and stock their homes with glass animal figurines a la Laura in “The Glass Menagerie” –- think again.

“There is a misperception that [our customers] are all sitting on the couch,” Grossman said during our phone interview. “People have antiquated stereotypes. I am very anti-stereotype, I think it just limits possibilities, limits thinking.”

Instead, the modern customer uses a variety of means to shop: television, the Web (more than 30% of purchases are made here), iPad, iPhone, Android, YouTube, Facebook and magazines are all ways that consumers interact with HSN.

“Our woman is very modern … she’s very inquisitive, very savvy and she wants the idea, she wants the information and she wants the entertainment and communication,” said Grossman, who has spent a good deal of her tenure (she became CEO in 2006) working toward making the 24-hour network as entertaining as the Style or Food networks. HSN is now replete with set changes for every show, demonstrable brands that are TV–friendly and engaging hosts with whom the audience builds a rapport.

“Women today are what I would call channel agnostic, they just want what they want, on their own terms, how they want it. Our fastest growing area of the business is mobile. Because we are live, real time, she can take us anywhere,” Grossman said.

Somewhat counterintuitively, HSN is making a mark in the beauty business. You’d think that women would have to try on a perfume or blush before committing cash to purchasing it. But last summer HSN exclusively launched Mary J. Blige's My Life fragrance and sold 60,000 units within about six hours of air time –- shattering HSN fragrance sales records.

How do they do it? With onscreen demonstrations and the connection the audience makes with the product’s inventor. Grossman said it’s about emotion, storytelling and communicating not just the product’s back story and what the fragrance smells like, but how it’s going to make the wearer feel.
Top-selling HSN beauty brands include Lancôme, Carol’s Daughter, Adrien Arpel’s Signature Club A and Jennifer Flavin-Stallone’s (yes, wife to that Stallone) Serious Skin Care, which is proprietary to HSN -- as are many beauty brands or brand collections. Grossman said that the smaller brand Korres is one of the fastest growing. She finds beauty tools and beauty technology an exciting and expanding area -- HSN launched a virtual beauty makeover tool in which you can upload your photo to try different looks.

Will HSN and the like outpace brick-and-mortar shopping? A-list celebrities increasingly sell their wares in this arena -- Extra TV even quoted Lady Gaga as saying “I sort of have a secret desire that when I turn 55, I want to become a QVC girl [the other major shopping network] and sell domestic vacuums. It's all about the hair flip and the manicure.”

At minimum there’s change, Grossman said: “We are in a new world … boundary-less retail.”

-- Alene Dawson

Photo: Mindy Grossman attending the 26th annual Women's Project Women of Achievement Gala at Espace on March 7 in New York City. Last week she spoke to Cosmetic Executive Women in Santa Monica. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)