Tuning in to beauty segments these days is like taking a virtual stroll through, say, Bergdorf’s cosmetics department. Industry bigwigs like Brown and Bare Escentuals’ Leslie Blodgett and cult favorites such as Beverly Hills facialist Kate Somerville, makeup expert Trish McEvoy and skincare entrepreneur Peter Thomas Roth appear regularly on QVC, as do brands like Kiehl’s, Laura Mercier, Nars, Shu Uemura and Clinique. “It’s a great medium to convey the voice of the brand,” says Lynne Greene, global president of Clinique, Origins and Ojon. Over at HSN, the smaller but arguably hipper of the two channels ($2 billion in revenue in 2008 versus QVC’s $7.3 billion), major brands such as Lancôme, Benefit, Make Up For Ever and Stila are interspersed with known personalities like supermodel Lauren Hutton, who sells a natural beauty line; cooler-than-thou hairdresser Sally Hershberger, who has a line of styling products; Lisa Price of the bath-and-body brand Carol’s Daughter; and Jennifer Flavin-Stallone, whose Serious Skin Care brand has grossed more than $1 billion in sales since it went on the air 15 years ago. The distant third-place player—though it’s gaining traction—is ShopNBC, the 19-year-old channel that did $565 million in revenue in 2008 and has been recruiting former execs from QVC and HSN while simultaneously featuring a slate of independent brands like Ted Gibson hair products, Butter London nail polish and Intelligent Nutrients body and skincare. Sales at all three channels have also been boosted by high-tech advances: Each has its own iPhone application, and HSN recently struck a partnership with Comcast that allows customers to shop using their remote controls.
The style of the three channels has been updated, with custom-built sets that look more like shop-in-shops at Bloomingdale’s than the clearance aisle at the local drugstore. The programming has diversified too; HSN’s skincare-heavy lineup, for example, has shifted to also highlight hair care, beauty tools, fragrance and makeup. “HSN has become a true luxury environment,” says Serge Jureidini, president of Lancôme USA. “It has allowed us to take innovative products and explain them in depth to the viewer. The live demonstration is very valuable.” Those freakishly enthusiastic hosts are still there, but more and more airtime has been given over to the creators of top brands, who let viewers in on exactly how they dreamed up that multipurpose moisturizer firsthand. “The viewers have a connection with that person,” says Mindy Grossman, chief executive officer of HSN, who came to the company from Nike in 2006 with a mission to change the 33-year-old St. Petersburg, Florida, outfit from a transparent selling platform to a lifestyle channel that happens to sell things. “They look at someone like Jennifer Flavin-Stallone as their friend. As much as she has this aspirational lifestyle, she’s one of the most down-to-earth moms you will ever meet.”