Shoes on Sale: 5 Questions for QVC’s Mike George

QVC Inc. CEO Mike George said “FFANY Shoes on Sale” is fast becoming more than just a one-night outing. “It just keeps getting bigger in terms of the amount of people who get involved,” he said. “We want to extend the programming to be more of a month-long event.”

Through QVC.com, George said the company is looking for ways to engage customers longer. To drive more sales to the cause, QVC will again offer a Shoes on Sale “Shoe of the Day” all this month, with net proceeds going to breast cancer research and education.

QVC also is planning to build more personal relationships with shoppers through its blog, where customers can share their personal breast cancer stories. A webcast will be shown online after the TV program, too.

“Social networking has allowed us to have a deeper tie to the customer, which is something that’s fairly new for us,” George said. “It’s a way to make the experience more personal. So Shoes on Sale keeps expanding on multiple dimensions.”

1. How will QVC build on last year’s Shoes on Sale?
There were a couple of innovations last year we’re going to take forward this year. 2010 was the first time we did a separate webcast, in addition to our main TV program. We’ll give our customers the live show and then a webcast for those who are really into shoe shopping. It’s a way to sell some additional shoes and offer some online-only products. We’re excited because we had some success with that last year.

2. Will the economy play into this year’s event?
We’re going to do fine. We’ve done reasonably well with this event [since] 2008, the darkest days of the financial meltdown. The charitable component is very important, and these shoes are available at a great value. Consumers are cautious, so we always want to be respectful to their pocketbooks. I think we’ll be banking on another good year, considering our customers will be able to buy these shoes at half the retail price.

3. What are your sales expectations for this time?
Our goal is always to give more than the year before. I wouldn’t put a number on it, but we’re hoping the shoes do well. I think we’re up to $35 million lifetime donations now.

4. How is QVC integrating television and new media?
We talk a lot about creating a multiscreen experience. What we find today is that our customers are simultaneously watching the live broadcast and engaging on Facebook and Twitter through their smartphones, laptops and tablets. Often, we’ll take people’s tweets and we’ll stream them across our live feed on the broadcast, or customers will submit questions through Facebook and we’ll answer them or share their comments live. Between smartphones and tablets, our mobile network represents about 3 percent of revenue, up from virtually nothing a year ago. That’s the big trend for us. We’re seeing rapid growth in tablets especially, because it presents a viewing screen that’s big enough to watch a live show in a completely mobile and untethered way.

5. Why is it important for QVC to be part of Shoes on Sale?
It has become part of the fabric and the culture of our company. It’s obviously a chance to give back to our customers, but it particularly resonates with our employees because a lot of them have been touched by breast cancer. A number of our team members have volunteered to share their survival stories on QVC.com this year. Nancy Hornback, the program host for the webcast, was diagnosed with breast cancer four days after joining QVC, so for her, it’s a very personal experience. It’s one of those events where you really feel that deep connection both to our team members and our customers.

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