Home shopping giant QVC Inc. plans to open a 500-square-foot retail store this Friday (July 14) at the country's largest indoor shopping center, the Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis.
Apart from a small shop located at QVC's headquarters in West Chester, Pa., which welcomes the visiting public after they've toured the programmer's studio, this week's retail launch marks the first for the company.
But QVC vice president of communication and influence marketing Nan Russel was quick to point out that QVC is not looking at the store's launch as an entry into bricks-and-mortar retail. Rather, it was created as a way to draw new customers to the on-air network and its online shopping site, iQVC.
Through prior research, the network learned that many viewers are reluctant to make an initial purchase without the chance to touch and feel a product. Once shoppers at the studio store test the quality of the merchandise, though, many take the plunge and become loyal customers.
Interactive kiosks at the mall-based store are designed to steer retail customers back to iQVC. Customers can buy directly through the company's Web site while at the store.
QVC is still working out ways to track which retail customers are converted to shoppers of its online or on-air services. That will help to determine whether to add stores in other locations.
If the Mall of America test proves successful, QVC would consider adding "a very small number of stores" strategically placed across the country, Russell said. Rather than placing the stores in other malls, the company would seek out destination locations.
The Mall of America is as much a tourist attraction as a shopping center, attracting 42 million visitors each year.
The new QVC store will be located across from a new Barnes & Noble Inc. bookstore and right near the mall's indoor campground, "Camp Snoopy." QVC is in talks about hosting an on-air show at Camp Snoopy this fall tied to the 50th anniversary of the popular cartoon character.
The network will also broadcast live from its new store next weekend. In addition, QVC is hosting auditions next Saturday (July 15) for a new on-air host. According to spokeswoman Bonnie Clark, several of the network's current hosts are from the Minnesota area.
Would-be on-air hosts will be asked to bring a resume, a photo head shot and an item to "sell" during their auditions, she said.
Because the new store is so small, it won't stock all of the products QVC sells online and on-air. Instead, it will focus on smaller products, including health and beauty items, Russell said. "We'll be changing out products frequently," she added.