Joan Rivers: The Passing of a Legendary Retailing Pioneer
QVC was founded in 1986 by Joseph Segel, an entrepreneur and retailing pioneer who saw an opportunity to create a new platform for a modern shopping experience through television broadcasts. He named the company QVC to represent its three guiding principles: Quality, Value, and Convenience.
Today the company promotes itself as the world’s leading video and ecommerce retailer. While QVC is most prominently regarded for its presence on television stations around the world, $3.2 billion of its most recently stated $8.6 billion in total annual revenues, came from e-commence.
The recent passing of comedian Joan Rivers also marks the passage of a pioneer in home shopping-based television retailing. Ms. Rivers began selling on QVC in 1990, long before it became popular for celebrities to sell directly on the medium and not long after the founding of QVC.
Her association with QVC began out of necessity at a time when, after her husband’s suicide and her brief late-night show on Fox was cancelled, she was shunned by one time friend and ally Johnny Carson. This set her up as a single mother in financial stress and she saw her creativity combining with the newly emerging QVC as a possible solution to her considerable financial challenges. In her words, ‘I had to pay bills’.
Over 24 years she sold over a billion dollars in jewelry, apparel and beauty products. In that time she sold over 6,000 products and actually signed off on each item she offered. Clearly she was not merely a celebrity image lending or licensing her fame to sell product or raise margins.
If anyone doubts Ms. Rivers bona fides as a major celebrity, on her sudden recent passing Prince Charles issued a statement noting his personal sadness on learning of her stunning demise. He then noted that she had been a guest, at his personal invitation, at his second wedding.
Discussing the grief and anxiety filled aftermath of her husband’s suicide, Ms. Rivers noted that her husband had been examined at a Philadelphia hospital but his release was delayed. One Friday night, after many futile attempts to have the body released for transit for a funeral in California, Ms. Rivers called a friend at 2 AM for any kind of help. She immediately apologized for the time of the call but was obviously frantic. The friend told her not to worry, she would handle everything. The next morning at 10 AM the body was released. The call was made to the White House. The friend was Nancy Reagan.
Joan Rivers was a truly creative retailing pioneer, who despite her many areas of success and international fame, welcomed her title as the ‘Queen of Home Shopping’. She felt that going to a jewelry store should be fun and not a place where one may experience snobbery. Her now famous tagline was, ‘If I can look this fabulous, you can look this fabulous!’