Macy's to offer TV home shopping

June 02, 1993|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,New York Bureau

NEW YORK -- Promising more than "baubles, bangles and beads," R.H. Macy & Co. said yesterday that it was entering the booming -- but unproven -- market of home shopping by launching its own 24-hour television channel.

Backed by network and cable television veterans, including Don Hewitt, the executive producer of "60 Minutes," and Charles Dolan, chairman of Cablevision Systems Corp., "TV Macy's" is expected to reach 15 million to 20 million viewers when it starts airing next year, said Macy's chairman, Myron E. Ullman III.

"This will be complementary with our stores," Mr. Ullman said. "Wethink the one will draw customers to the others."

The 135-year-old retailer, which has 110 stores under the Macy's and Bullock's names, including three Macy's stores in Maryland, has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws since January 1992. In Maryland, Macy's restructuring has led to the closing of a Macy's store at Hunt Valley Mall and the company's I. Magnin store in White Flint Mall in Kensington.

Mr. Ullman declined to comment on the cost of starting the network, saying the figure still must be approved by bankruptcy court. Some estimates put the cost at about $50 million.

Given the move by other retailers into the growing field of home shopping, analysts said, Macy's venture will probably receive court approval.

"This is a completely new field of distribution," said Kurt Barnard, publisher of Barnard Retail Marketing Report. "No one wants to be left behind."

In March, Saks Fifth Avenue decided to try its hand at selling clothing through QVC Network Inc. and reportedly sold more than $500,000of clothing in one hour. In addition, Seattle-based Nordstrom Inc. said last month that it was considering television home shopping.

Home shopping is estimated to be a $2-billion-a-year industry, with the potential to expand further once consumers become more familiar with the concept and once interactive cable technology allows shoppers to control more of what is displayed on screen.

One key to the success of "TV Macy's," Mr. Hewitt said, will be for the department stores to upgrade home shopping's image.

Macy's name -- familiar to many Americans through its flagship Manhattan department store, its sponsorship of the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the classic movie "Miracle on 34th Street" -- is crucial to that effort, Mr. Hewitt said.

"The last thing we want to sell is baubles, bangles and beads," NTC Mr. Hewitt said in a stab at QVC and Home Shopping Network, which often offer low-cost goods.

Instead, the company promises to combine fashionable displays of merchandise with broadcasts of events at the 110 stores, such as a cooking demonstration by a famous chef or a fashion model's display of clothing.

"We want to take this store and put it on television," Mr. Hewitt said. "We want viewers to think they're in Macy's."

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