This Children's Wear Company Hit a Home Run in a New Channel

Sometimes, all innovation requires is the collision of two separate bodies to send both in a third and brand new direction, and that's exactly what happened when the 80-year-old girls' dress manufacturer Gerson & Gerson brought on a new vice president to open opportunities for the company. That VP, Mark Mignone, has deep experience in retail, a corresponding network of connections, and a love of collaboration. When he came to Gerson & Gerson, Mignone saw possibilities to take the brand into channels it hadn't been before.

Back in 2013, when he was working at Kaltex (another Innovator winner), Mignone was introduced by Hebe Schecter to the acclaimed designer and HSN celebrity Jeffrey Banks, and the two hit it off over sushi.

When he got to Gerson & Gerson, Mignone had an idea: why not take children's wear to HSN? He called Banks, and the two started a conversation. That led to a visit from Banks to see the company's operations and its apparel. The Toby Award-winning designer is no stranger to children's wear. Years ago Banks designed boys' wear lines for retailers including Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor, and he was wowed by the beautiful designs and quality of the dresses. Or, as Mignone puts it, "He looked like a kid in a candy store."

The collaboration between Banks and the Gerson & Gerson team began then and there, and the rest, as they say, is history. Although the company is famous for its dresses, the team decided that for HSN, it would lead with an apparel item that would be a great gift idea, and that it would specifically target grandparents as buyers. "We wanted something that grandmothers would love to buy for their grandchildren and we decided on designer swaddles for babies," said Mignone. The swaddles aired three times in November 2016 and sold out; five other pieces in the collection were sold online. Product was packaged in beautiful matte gift boxes. "We wanted the presentation to be perfect. We wanted the customer to feel great about it," he says.

Gerson & Gerson's introduction to TV home shopping was a great success, but its sleek on air execution belies a tough planning and numbers game that goes on behind the scenes, says Mignone. This is a tough business. Your merchandise doesn't get to sit around and languish on shelves. Time on TV home selling networks goes to products that can bring in the biggest sales per minute, and producing those numbers requires smart planning and careful targeting. "We have to educate the consumer that they can buy children's clothing on HSN," he says. The company is already planning its 2017 line, and this year will reveal some new mother/daughter sets in addition to items just for boys and girls.

Because it is a new category for the network, the company was careful to target a particular segment of the population (grandmas) with a particular product (gift items for their grandchildren), but merchandising to this segment has its own fine nuances. For example, because grandparents don't typically live with their grandchildren and might not be seeing them for a while, the on-air segment made sure to remind watchers that children might need a different size by the time the gift is given.

"You have to forecast that the kid will grow. You may have to plan. We have to get inside the grandmas' heads. It may take us a while to perfect the merchandising, but HSN has 91 million unique viewers, and we are going to capture a lot of them," says Mignone.
— Jordan K. Speer

Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this article, don't miss the rest of our Top Innovators!
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