Business

QVC and HSN prepare for a future beyond TV

Posted December 10, 2018 11:00 a.m. EST

— You may have never heard of a company called Qurate. But you probably know all of its brands -- and there's a good chance you've bought a lot of stuff from them.

Qurate (QRTEA), the retailer that used to be known as Liberty Interactive, owns QVC and HSN as well as zulily and Garnet Hill. It's expected to generate $14 billion in sales in 2018, making it bigger than Victoria's Secret owner L Brands (LB) and eBay (EBAY).

CNN Business spoke with Qurate CEO Mike George about the competitive landscape in retail. George noted that the debate about retail is often framed as online versus bricks and mortar.

But he added that Qurate, primarily through its QVC and HSN television networks, represents a third way of shopping -- and that TV is not dead yet despite all the talk of declining viewership.

"We're not seeing a big impact from consumers cutting the cord. Our broadcast viewership is growing," George said.

Still, George conceded that this might not be the case in five years, which is why Qurate is also experimenting with programs on Facebook Live, Instagram's IGTV and YouTube and getting its content on devices like Roku and Amazon's Fire TV stick.

"We are getting more people to view our content. And we believe that will ultimately drive sales. We need to make content relevant for all platforms," George said.

Qurate also is benefiting from what is still a pretty healthy economy. George said that it looks like the holiday shopping season is off to a promising start, with strong demand in particular for Apple (AAPL) products, Bose speakers and kitchen goods.

But competition in retail is fierce.

Qurate said last month that overall sales for the third quarter were up just 2%. Zulily, a seller of clothes, toys and home goods, was a bright spot, with sales rising 18%. QVC's mobile ordering increased too, as more consumers shop on their smartphones.

Consumers have plenty of options for mobile and physical shopping. Amazon (AMZN) is the king of online commerce right now and has increasingly made more forays into brick and mortar as well.

George acknowledged that Amazon is a formidable rival, although he said that he also has great respect for Ulta (ULTA) in the beauty category, Best Buy (BBY) in electronics as well as Target (TGT) and Nordstrom (JWN) more broadly.

But he remained confident that consumers shopping at Qurate's brands, particularly QVC and HSN, are able to get an experience that they won't at Amazon or other retailers -- namely the video component that the QVC and HSN networks are known for.

"We are not going to win by chasing Amazon. But we can bring products to life, and not just through TV but all forms of digital media," George said.