Although technically QVC was not the first shopping channel in the UK it was the first one to last beyond a few months and has certainly stood the test of time as we approach our 25th birthday in October this year. There have been many changes over the years but if you are fairly new to shopping with us you won’t necessarily know about them so I thought it would be good to do a series of twenty five blogs running up to October 1st, one for each year of our existence, from my memories of being with the channel.
QVC first aired in the UK on October 1st 1993 at 2pm but the initial ‘Opening Sequence’ of myself and Jon Briggs welcoming people to a new way of shopping was in fact pre-recorded before Jon went on to sell the first product ‘live’. Some of you may remember the VW Beetle alarm clock… some of you may even have bought it? How I wish I did, as all I have to remind me of it is this picture.
Jon and I were two of the original seven presenters and although we went live on October 1st, we had in fact been training and rehearsing for the previous four weeks as well as watching a fair few hours of QVC America, many of them selling dolls. It was very exciting and a bit nerve-wracking to be in at the start of something new and it was lovely to receive this ‘Good Luck’ card from my other half and our children who were only five and six at the time. They probably don’t have many memories of life before QVC and have grown up in a house filled with QVC products – lucky them, I say!
This photo was for the very first QVC Christmas card and I’m not sure where Julian Ballantyne was when this was taken as he had joined the team in November. In the picture with myself and Jon are, Katy, Kara, Paul, Suzanne and Steve. None of us had any idea how huge shopping from the comfort of your own home would become.
We originally started broadcasting a few live hours a day but as it became apparent that we needed to do more live so the presenter team grew and at the end of January 1994, Jilly, Debbie and Dave Bradford joined us. We also had expert guests. Ali Young was with us almost from the outset, swiftly followed by DIY expert Harry Greene and in the February of 1994, Richard Jackson joined us. He has done a lovely blog this week, definitely worth a read, as he celebrates twenty years of Richard Jackson’s Garden but he had already been with us for over four years as our gardening expert.
Product-wise in the early days we had a lot of variety but over half of our shows were jewellery which was very popular, so much so that we introduced Diamonique for the first time in July 1994. The first few shows were total sell-outs and its popularity remains. Some of our earliest beauty brands were Gale Hayman and Gatineau, both with us since 1994, and we had fashion shows with Fruit of the Loom and collections designed for us by Zandra Rhodes.
We also had a product called the Rolykit which was designed and presented by Joy Mangano, the subject of the film ‘Joy’. She did lots of other innovative products including jewellery boxes and her mop! We had quite a few doll and teddy bear hours in the first year too.
After we’d been on air for about six months, a trip to QVC America, based in Westchester near Philadelphia, was organised for myself and Paul Lavers for us to get a feel of how they did things as they had been on air since 1986. No-one actually mentioned we would be going on-air until we arrived there which was daunting as they had millions of viewers while we, at the time, were still in the tens of thousands.
I co-presented on a jewellery show and a World Cup merchandise show, the closest I got to the World Cup that year as England had failed to qualify. I do remember going to a huge shopping mall and buying a ‘Striker’ mascot for my son which we still have somewhere. I think Paul presented a cooking show out there – some of you may remember the ‘In the Kitchen’ shows Paul and I used to present together, particularly the incident with the chocolate buttercream icing? On to 1994/95 next week.
I had a two hour diamond show on Sunday and as Diamond is the gem stone for the month of April I thought I would share a couple of diamond facts with you.
- Every diamond is at least 990 million years old – many are 3.2 BILLION years old
- They are formed between 62 and 124 MILES beneath the surface of the earth
- Diamond comes from the Greek word ‘adamas’ meaning invincible
It is also the preferred stone for engagement rings and this seems like a good moment to mention that after forty years of living together, him indoors finally got around to proposing and we became engaged on Wednesday evening at a quiet dinner with family and close friends. The ring was co-designed with our lovely Alison O’Reilly, who found the gorgeous stones and then had the ring made up for me. You’ll see me wearing it on air from now on but I’ll pop a pic on here next week as well.
So ‘my’ ring didn’t feature in the diamond show on Sunday but there were a couple of beautiful styles I loved. Princess cut is back in style big time, for the first time in about ten years, but with the new seamless setting, several can be placed together to give the look of a much bigger stone, as in this ring, (pictured below left) which is a huge ‘solitaire’ look for under £900. There is also a pair of stud earrings (pictured below right) in princess cut which would be the perfect complement to the ring.
We are also launching the 98 facet cut. A normal ‘brilliant’ has 57 facets (58 if you include the cutlet) so this has been developed to further enhance brilliance. This beautiful half eternity band would sit beautifully alongside a wedding and engagement ring.
I just wanted to finish by thanking you for all the wonderful messages of comfort on last week’s blog – I have read them all and they really have made a difference… thank you.