Sheet Shopping HSN and QVC: Fashion vs. Value
Home Textiles Today Staff -- Home Textiles Today, 5/24/2011 8:47:52 AM
NEW YORK - For consumers looking to buy sheets from the web sites of the two main shopping networks, QVC.com and HSN.com, the choice can largely be summed up in three words: fashion versus value.
HSN.com appears to be differentiating itself from its bigger competitor by offering a tightly edited selection from some of the biggest names in interior decorating and design, such as Colin Cowie, Jonathan Adler, Nate Berkus, among others.
Value is of course QVC's middle name (quality, value, convenience). "We will always be focused on providing the customer with value on all of the products which we offer," said Karl Schroeder, director of merchandising for QVC. QVC.com has a broader selection of sheets that hits lower price points than HSN.com.
Editors at Home Textiles Today compared the sheet offerings at the web sites of HSN and QVC to see how they stacked up in terms of brand, design and price point. This report continues a series in HTT called "Face to Face" comparing similar merchandising classifications at pairs of competing retailers.
The websites are a growing business for both retailers, accounting for about a third of sales for each. Executives at HSN.com did not respond to questions for this report as of deadline.
QVC.com is the online division of a heavyweight. QVC's revenue increased 6% to $7.8 billion for 2010. HSNi's annual net sales grew 9% over the prior year to $3.0 billion for 2010.
Perhaps reflecting the difference in size, the number of items available in sheets is more expansive at QVC than HSN: approximately 85 at QVC and about 29 at HSN. (Excluded from HTT's count were duplicate sheet sets that offered extra pillow cases, as well as additional pillow cases sold as open stock, with the exception of the Natori collection offered exclusively as open stock).
While there were more items - and brands - to choose from at QVC, HSN's selection offered more emphasis on contemporary current home fashion. Cowie, Adler, and Berkus get maximum exposure from their own retail stores, event planning, books, and television shows, making them higher profile than the brand names at QVC. Those brands include Laura Ashley, Liz Claiborne New York, which was introduced last year, and Isaac Mizrahi.
However, one would think that when shopping for sheets on the web sites of the two big television shopping networks, there would be nearly an infinite array of colors and patterns.
Despite the capacity for variety the Internet offers retailers, sheet selection at HSN and QVC are dominated by basic solids and mostly neutrals. At QVC, the ratio of solids to patterns is two to one while at HSN, the ratio is almost three solids to one pattern. (However, determining what is a solid and what is a pattern is not an exact science. For the sake of simplicity, HTT considered jacquard and embroidered sheets as patterned, while those with lace edging, piping or dobby stripes as solid. The thinking was whether the detail was subtle or loud enough to impact how a consumer would design a room around them.)
"Our customer does purchase more solid then print sheets. She is typically looking for a sheet set that will compliment her existing decor. QVC offers prints when it is part of a collection that tells a compelling decor story for a bedroom," said Schroeder.
With a much larger sheet assortment, QVC.com carries a much bigger array of house brands, and one of those brands in particular, Northern Nights offers 39 items - 33 are solids.
"Northern Nights, our proprietary brand, is the largest portion of our sales," said Schroeder. The collection has a range of thread counts with the majority between 300 and 500.
At both QVC.com and HSN.com, several brands offer only one look for sheets - for example, a jacquard in one single color (limon) from Guest at Frette, the luxury brand. Schroeder explained, "in these instances we have approached the brand as a life style assortment. The sheets are only one component of a broader product mix for the brand."
With a seemingly greater emphasis on fashion for sheets at HSN.com, price points for sheets skewed a bit higher. Highgate Manor has a sandwashed silk queen sheet set for $329.95. Prices for Natori, the brand known for luxury intimates, ranged from $129 to $175 - for one queen-sized fitted sheet, as this line is sold open stock. Queen sheet sets from accessories designer Jonathan Adler are priced at $89.95, rounding out the top three highest priced lines for HSN.
The highest price sheet on QVC.com is from intimate apparel designer Eileen West, a solid-color sheet set priced at $90 for a queen. Next highest comes from fashion designer brand IsaacMizrahiLive, a cotton cashmere blend for $89. Amadeus, made exclusively for HSN in Portugal, offered the next highest queen sheet set for $84.75.
On the low end, at HSN. com. Carleton Varney, the president of Dorothy Draper design firm, had a 300-thread count lace set for the clearance price of $23.95 and Nate Berkus had a plaid set for $29.95, also on clearance. At QVC.com, there were 340 thread-count clearance- priced queen sheets for $29.96 from Northern Nights, and a 350 thread count plaid set from Liz Claiborne for $32.98 and a grey heather check in flannel from Amadeus for $31.86.
Shopping online doesn't necessarily mean sitting in front of a computer, and both companies now offer mobile shopping applications for a variety of handheld devices. A a good number of shoppers are going straight to the websites, bypassing the TV. In an interview last year with The New York Times, Michael George, president and ceo of QVC, which is based in West Chester, Pa., said that 60% of new customers in the United States are purchasing on the Internet. "Of those, more than half are buying products that have not been shown on TV recently, or at all," the article stated.
Still one can't evaluate HSN.com and QVC.com without taking into consideration the shopping networks themselves. While at one time, the Internet was thought to mean the end for these networks, even to a casual viewer it is clear they now work in tandem, with guests and hosts plugging the web sites during sales pitches.
However, shows dedicated to home textiles are rare and shows dedicated to purely bedding are rarer still. Over on QVC.com, looking at a two week period from May 9 to May 22, there was one hour of programming dedicated to bedding from house brand Northern Nights. Brands which offer bedding, as well as other products, had more air time. IsaacMizrahiLive aired several times over the two week stretch, for a total of six hours. Liz Claiborne New York Clearance Home aired for one hour, from 4 a.m. to 5 am.
At HSN, for the two weeks from May 3 to May 15 (a comparison of the same two weeks was not possible) only two brands that include sheets among its lifestyle collection had significant airtime. Highgate Manor, which offers home décor, tabletop accessories in addition to bedding, celebrated its ninth anniversary on Tuesday May 10. That meant a total of nine hours of programming, starting at midnight and interspersed with other shows through 11 p.m. Three hours of Colin Cowie Home, a brand which offers home décor and products for entertaining, aired on May 3.
HSN.com Sheets Wrap up Fashion and Luxury
PRICE FOR QUEEN SET
$23.36** - $74.95
From the president of Dorothy Draper design firm
$29.95** - $64.95
By the designer with a growing television presence
Peacock Alley for HSN
Made exclusively for HSN from the upscale brand
$49.95 - $74.95
Fiber in Lyocell collection from eucalyptus trees
$49.95** - $329.95
Sand-washed silk sheets hit luxury pricepoint
From the jewelry and home décor designer
$69.95 - $79.95
By the leading designer and event planner
Fan floral offers bold pattern with citrus green
Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler
Part of a collection by the accessories designer
Natori (open stock)
$129 - $175 (fitted sheet)
Bedding from the premium lingerie brand
* Brands are distinguished as name brand versus house, or proprietary brand. ** Clearance price *** One collection mixes print and solid
QVC.com Sheets Mix Classic and Value
PRICE FOR QUEEN SET
$29.96** - $81.12
Proprietary brand is top seller
$31.86 - $84.75
Made exclusively for QVC in Portugal
Liz Claiborne New
$32.98** - $66
Sheet collection introduced last year
$36 - $57
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