Dawn of the TV shopping mall

In 1994 America, it’s the mall — not the mountain — that comes to Mohammed.

In the latest move to refit traditional business for the supposedly imminent high-tech future, Home Shopping Network will launch Television Shopping Mall, individual video vendors featuring household goods, apparel and other items from outside retailers and manufacturers.

“We are going to see a lot more of these kinds of boutique shopping services, ” predicted one investment manager who cited QVC Network’s Q2 and R.H. Macy as two other vendors aiming to draw an affluent video audience by offering upscale goods along with lower-priced ones.

Under the new format expected to air this summer, 35 mall tenants will program 70 two-hour spots weekly, with the remainder of time allotted to Home Shopping Spree, the Florida-based channel’s overnight service.

HSN expects to initially distribute the service to 3 million cable households and 20 million broadcast households and hopes to reach 30 million cable households in five years. Programmer contracts will be for one year with renewal options.

Wall Street reacts

Wall Street reaction was positive, albeit muted. HSN shares traded as high as $ 15.13 before closing at $ 14.75, up 25 cents. Thursday’s volume of a half-million shares was more than twice the average daily activity.

Doubts remain whether traditional merchants and catalog companies can succeed in video sales.

“The question is, will they find retailers who know how to do it?” one analyst said. “My guess is, (HSN) will make money.”

Perhaps anticipating that concern, HSN said it will offer participants support services including studios, sales hosts and order operators for a fee.

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