Xcel Delves Deep Into Livestream Shopping; Combines Media And Retail In Direct To Consumer Approach
Robert D’Loren wants to you to know that direct to consumer livestream shopping is the next big thing. The Xcel Brands Inc. chairman and CEO has thought long and hard about the best way to engage and retain customers, and he believes it’s a live shopping show. There are two multi-brand industry giants that already play in this space – QVC
Xcel brands have generated $4 billion in livestreaming retail sales over linear TV and digital small screens during the past 12 years. The company’s brands collectively do $500 million in annual sales. “We have over 10,000 hours of programming time, so we know a lot, if not more, than most about livestreaming, what works in terms of show production and more importantly, what’s needed to build audience,” D’Loren said.
“There’s a variety of reasons for why it’s not working here in the U.S., the way it is in Asia, where it’s growing dramatically by the day, and that’s because most of the retailers that are experimenting with it don’t understand that they need to think like a media company and act like a retailer at the same time,” D’Loren added.
Xcel in July 2020 started with Longaberger, launching a new digitized business model for the artisinal and handcrafted home decor business it acquired in 2019, and transforming the brand’s traditional multi-level platform into a state-of-the-art, peer-to-peer social commerce community with expanded home and lifestyle categories.
Now, Xcel is giving Halston and C. Wonder, two brands whose trademarks it acquired in 2019 and 2015, respectively, the livestream treatment. H by Halston and H Halston were previously acquired in 2014.
Xcel has tapped talent to helm the two brands. Former Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing is leading the launch of Halston and H Halston. C. Wonder by Christian Siriano will be helmed by the designer, who will maintain his own eponymous brand. Downing and Siriano will be fronting their respective brands on QVC, HSN, and Xcel’s proprietary platform. Xcel also owns the Judith Ripka, the jewelry brand and LOGO by Lori Goldstein as well as holds a minority stake in Isaac Mizrahi.
Siriano’s looks have been worn by FLOTUS Dr. Jill Biden, past FLOTUS Michelle Obama, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and Cardi B, among others. Siriano will bring his signature polished ebullience to C. Wonder by Christian Siriano’s modern ready-to-wear and accessories collections, including appearing on HSN’s broadcast and streaming service in 2023.
“This is really a whole new way of reaching people,” D’Loren said. “It’s a new way of acquiring customers and building audience. The rest of it comes with the experience of knowing that not all [time slots] are created equal, just as in brick and mortar, not all doors created equal, not all locations within stores are created equal. You need to know that about time slot and you need to understand how critically important it is to build a destination. By that, I mean, create a reason for people to tune in at a given time.”
Xcel has used this strategy with Judith Ripka, and will create a multi-branded site for all of its apparel and accessory labels. “We haven’t finalized a name for it yet, but it will be something that’s simple and easy for people to remember, and of course, the brands we’ll be launching will feature Ken Downing for Halston and Christian Siriano for C. Wonder and then of course our other brands. Very likely, we will fold in the Judith Ripka brand into that as well, so we’re not diluting our marketing spend.
“We expect to be announcing soon two new programs at QVC with similar type talent,” D’Loren said. “We signed the talent side of this and we’re finalizing with QVC now what those businesses will look like, but one of them is an American icon. Hopefully, the announcement will come soon, and we’ll run the live streaming on QVC and HSN over interactive television in their livestreaming platform and then direct to consumer on our own platform.”
D’Loren said Xcel was started with the mission of reimagining shopping, entertainment and social media. “Twelve years ago, people weren’t sure what we were talking about and now everybody understands exactly what that means,” he said of livestreaming. “We believe that the challenges that are happening with customer acquisition through existing digital marketing and advertising are two-fold. It’s expensive due to the privacy rules that have changed, which makes it difficult to follow your customer. Also people are bored with static images and video is what everyone wants. It’s like every social platform, whether it’s Tiktok or YouTube is video-driven. That’s where people are spending their time.”
The CEO said that Xcel seeks to acquire well-established brands that are trending up or brands that have experienced some challenges that require Xcel’s expertise to overcome the difficulties.
There have been many attempts to revive Halston in the past. Everyone from Revlon
“I think my approach with both Halston and C. Wonder is that I want Ken and Christian to look forward and to think about what today’s consumer wants, think of today’s trends,” said D’Loren. “Don’t change the core, just filter everything that’s happening in the zeitgeist today through that core.”