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The Shopping Channel’s new look: high fashion

Employees work in the clothing section of The Shopping Channel's national distribution centre in Mississauga on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013.

matthew sherwood The Globe and Mail

In a bid to reach some lofty financial goals, The Shopping Channel is moving in an unlikely direction: upscale.

At the end of the month, the channel, owned by media giant Rogers Communications Inc., will introduce Canadian fashion design star Kimberley Newport-Mimran – the other half of the Joe Mimran (creator of Joe Fresh) power couple – and her high-end Pink Tartan line. She will appear on air for an hour at a time pitching a $395 floral trench coat and $125 "air-knit" T-shirt.

Pink Tartan joins premium L'Occitane en Provence beauty products and Sam Edelman footwear, which TSC has already launched, in addition to its usual middle-of-the-road clothing and jewellery brands.

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"We clearly saw that the customer had an appetite for this," said TSC president Steven Goldsmith, a veteran of the U.S. shopping channel wars who arrived at the sleepy Canadian competitor 16 months ago with the goal of shaking it up.

His latest efforts come as the Canadian retail sector braces for considerably more luxury competition, with Nordstrom Inc. set to open its first store here later this year, and Saks Inc. preparing for its entry into this market as well. Both of those U.S. chains currently carry Ms. Newport-Mimran's Pink Tartan, as does this country's reigning high fashion purveyor, Holt Renfrew & Co., which is also expanding.

Now, The Shopping Channel is rushing to court the big spender, betting that its quirky mix of on-air celebrities, television pitches and online selling will win over new customers and help the retailer hit its revenue goals.

The channel generated $289-million in sales last year, which wasn't much more than the $200-million it rang up in 2000, according to regulatory filings. But the company is aiming for $1-billion in sales – more than triple its current business – over the next several years, Mr. Goldsmith says.

Roughly 10 to 15 per cent of the channel's current sales are made up of upscale products – mainly in the home division, including Dyson vacuum cleaners. Now the company aims to increase the proportion of high-end merchandise to 20 per cent or more.

Corinne Sandler, chief executive officer of market researcher Fresh Intelligence, said The Shopping Channel is moving in the right direction in trying to capture some of the burgeoning e-commerce business of affluent consumers.

But she said the channel has to be careful not to lose focus in mixing pricey Pink Tartan $125 tops and Joan Rivers $50 shirts. "Mixing the two is a bit scary."

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Nicolas Veto, chief executive officer at L'Occitane Canada, said he had some doubts when first launching its $114 anti-aging cream and other products on TSC last year for Mother's Day.

But L'Occitane's sales have been double what he anticipated in the first year, and the products sold out half way before his first five "shows" were finished, he said. He chose a former store manager to promote the products on air and viewers seem to be charmed by her personable and genuine "romancing the product," he said. "It's not bombarding people. It's telling a story."

Ms. Newport-Mimran has done other partnerships with Rogers Media division, including teaming up with Loulou magazine and Tide last fall to promote her washer-friendly collection of clothing aimed at combining high style with low maintenance.

The Shopping Channel initiative is an "opportunity to introduce Pink Tartan to another audience of Canadian women, bringing runway to real life," Ms. Newport-Mimran said in an e-mail.

Mr. Goldsmith said he will launch more luxury fashion products on TSC. Next month, the channel will roll out designer Vince Camuto shoes, ranging in price from $100 to $150.

By October, when Rogers starts to sponsor the National Hockey League, it will offer some upscale NHL signed memorabilia. "I would like it to be signed jerseys from the 1967 Maple Leafs championship team," he said. "I would like it to be Phil Kessell's hockey stick. I haven't confirmed all of that, but I know what our aspiration is."

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About the Author
Retailing Reporter

Marina Strauss covers retailing for The Globe and Mail's Report on Business. She follows a wide range of topics in the sector, from the fallout of foreign retailers invading Canada to how a merchant such as the Swedish Ikea gets its mojo. She has probed the rise and fall (and revival efforts) of Loblaw Cos., Hudson's Bay and others. More

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