Retailer of the Year: HSN

When Mindy Grossman arrived at HSN as CEO five years ago, she turned the company upside down.

Back then, the home-shopping network was stuck in the shadow of its rival, QVC, suffering from a lack of focus, uninspired product and a yell-and-sell approach that turned off viewers.

With Grossman’s sweeping changes — “we literally overhauled everything, down to the font on our stationery,” she said — HSN has transformed into a more modern shopping destination that has the fashion world buzzing.

“HSN has gone from being a fashion ‘no’ to a fashion ‘yes,’” said designer Sam Edelman, an HSN partner. “Mindy has really made over the [company’s] image, [putting] HSN at the forefront of celebrity and design.”

For Grossman and her team, the 34-year-old company’s turnaround began with taking a step back and looking at the business in a different light. “We redefined what HSN stands for and created this idea of marrying content with commerce, thinking of ourselves more like a lifestyle network such as HGTV or the Food Network,” she said.

To that end, the company dumped dozens of brands and categories that no longer fit with this new vision and zeroed in on more style-focused businesses, including beauty, apparel and shoes. It also began aggressively courting top designers and celebrities to sell their collections on the network.

“We are really maniacal about bringing our consumers products that have great personalities and stories behind them,” Grossman said.

In the footwear space, HSN signed big names, including Steve Madden, Stuart Weitzman, Vince Camuto and Mariah Carey, who launched a line of shoes and other items last holiday season.

Carey told Footwear News that the retailer has been an ideal platform for introducing her designs to her fans. “HSN’s reach is massive,” she said. “I love being part of it all.” The star said the opportunity to connect with consumers through her on-air appearances is invaluable. “People love feeling close to designers and celebrities and hearing them talk about their products firsthand. It’s been a real learning experience [for me].”

The footwear category has become a standout for HSN, and many credit that to Grossman, a Nike alum and self-described shoe lover. Fellow FNAA honoree Vince Camuto said Grossman was influential in his decision to join HSN’s roster.

“She has brought stability to the business, and I really believe she’s going to take the company to the next level,” he said, noting that HSN provides tremendous exposure for his brand. “Its reach is unbelievable, and its customer [base] is very diversified around the country.”

Although HSN sells a range of shoe categories, the contemporary market is where the company has really planted its stake. “It’s who we are, and we want to own that space,” said John Bosco, HSN’s SVP of apparel, accessories and jewelry. To give itself an edge, the firm partners with its brands to offer exclusives. As much as 70 percent of its products are proprietary, said Bosco.

With all that growth, the footwear category is being given increasingly more airtime. This year, the network introduced its first 18- and 24-hour shoe sales and also collaborated with Paramount Pictures to present a special footwear-focused shopping event inspired by the movie remake of “Footloose.” The event was part of a bigger push by HSN to integrate more entertainment into its programming, with the goal of creating must-see TV. The company ran similar programs around the films “Eat, Pray, Love” and “The Help.”

To connect with consumers beyond TV, HSN is leveraging its programming content across all its digital platforms, including HSN.com, its mobile apps and a recently launched gaming portal.

“We no longer think of HSN as a TV network; we think of it as a content platform across different screens,” Grossman said, stressing that the company’s digital experiences are highly customized, not cookie-cutter. With its iPad app, for example, shoe lovers can create a footwear-specific channel and receive alerts when new shoe-related videos become available.

If the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based company’s recent performance is any gauge, consumers like the new, improved HSN. The retailer has rung up quarter after quarter of robust sales increases, and profits continue to climb. “It’s very validating to see customers responding so positively to what we’re doing,” Grossman said. “We think we’ve elevated the idea of network shopping from being a very linear, transactional business to something that inspires, informs and entertains.”

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