Television retailer QVC has made aggressive plans to keep shoppers watching — instead of mall-hopping — on Black Friday, an event it has traditionally ignored.
The leading network for TV shoppers promises special deals and a healthy dose of new items for sale starting on Thanksgiving night. Program host Dave James plans to stay awake for 28 hours of telethon-like coverage.
The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year, called "Black Friday" because it's key for many businesses to go in the black, or turn a profit. QVC, which competes with ShopNBC and the HSN home shopping network, has not wanted to get caught up in the frenzy and has always treated it as just another day for its sales pitches, said Doug Rose, the network's vice president of programming and marketing.
"This year, and we've been planning on this for many months, we really expect to join the fray with the other retailers," Rose said.
QVC is hoping for a "Black Friday" of its own. Hurt by the same recession that affected other retailers last year, QVC's fourth quarter revenue in 2008 was down 8 percent from the previous year. So far this year revenue has been essentially flat, although the value of the items that QVC is selling is down slightly.
The network generally offers one "special value" item to customers each day. For "Black Friday" coverage, which starts at 8 p.m. EST on Thanksgiving, there will be three.
Every hour, there will be a specially priced offer, and there will be five hours of gifts that have never been available before on the network, QVC said.
"There are a lot of people who think of going to the mall on `Black Friday' as dental surgery —painful and awful," Rose said. "We'll be a good alternative."
Rival HSN, which has also been flat in sales this year, mailed one million gift guides for the first time to people who have bought things through the network in the past. It is also offering specially-priced items over the Thanksgiving weekend, although that's not a shift from what it has done in the past.
HSN also had a "Get Ready for the Holidays" programming theme for the first week of November, for people who wanted advice on cooking and decorating. HSN is about a quarter of QVC's size in sales.
James, a former radio disc jockey, said the closest thing he's come to his upcoming 28-hour marathon is hosting radiothons for about half the time. He said he's working with a nutritionist to prepare him for the ordeal.
He's convinced his family to have an early Thanksgiving dinner and hopes the turkey will let him have a long nap before he goes to QVC's Pennsylvania studio.
"There's going to be coffee — a lot of coffee," he said.