Strengthening Relationships and Supporting Each Other in Challenging Times
A Message from Mike George, President and CEO, Qurate Retail, Inc.
March 27, 2020: We at Qurate Retail Group believe in the power of relationships—now more than ever. While we all try to navigate social distancing and other impacts to our day-to-day lives, we think it’s also important to stay connected.
In this time of extraordinary challenge, we are determined to support our customers, team members, communities, and vendors, while working together with government, community, and trade organizations to ensure that we’re always acting in a safe and responsible manner.
As a global company, we’ve been evolving our business in response to COVID-19 for many weeks. As this issue has impacted countries around the world, we’ve taken appropriate steps at our locations in China, Japan, Italy, Germany, Poland, the U.K., and the U.S. to protect our team members while maintaining our ability to serve our customers.
This situation is evolving rapidly, so our response is evolving rapidly, too. Today, I’d like to share several steps we have taken related to our U.S. businesses: QVC®, HSN®, Zulily®, Ballard Designs®, Frontgate®, Garnet Hill®, Grandin Road®, and RyllaceTM.
- We’re serving our customers and helping them stay connected as they manage through this crisis.
- We’re acting to keep our team members healthy and safe.
- We’re supporting and recognizing our team members’ extraordinary efforts with various additional benefits, including Emergency Pay options and additional compensation for on-site staff.
- We’re supporting our communities by harnessing our airwaves, our digital platforms, and the compassion of our customers and team members, including via a fundraising campaign in which Qurate Retail Group will match customer and team member donations, up to a total match of $1 million. And more to come on this.
Serving Our Customers: Keeping Distance, Yet Staying Connected
While we’ve temporarily closed all our retail stores to the public, our studios and fulfillment centers remain operational. Like other television networks and online retailers, we’re continuing to serve our customers and communities.
We’re seeing increased demand for food, cleaning supplies and devices, wellness products, home office products, and home fitness items – as well as crafts, garden, and other items to enjoy while at home. To meet these needs, we are:
- Working with our vendors to ensure ample supplies will be available in our fulfillment centers.
- Making it easier for customers to find what is most important to them by evolving our TV programming and events and curating special assortments online.
- Offering free shipping and handling and/or extra installment payments at QVC and HSN on many food and home items.
In addition, at QVC and HSN, we are temporarily extending our return policy from 30 to 90 days, so our customers have enough time to safely complete returns or exchanges.
We’re limiting the number of people in our studios to facilitate social distancing while we continue to connect with our customers. Across QVC and HSN, we’ve shifted to more taped programming on our secondary networks and reduced the number of models and guests during our live shows. We’re connecting with many guests over Skype. Our QVC and HSN hosts are producing more social content from the safety of their homes, and we’re encouraging customers to use our social pages to stay connected with each other. Across our Cornerstone Brands and Zulily, we’re finding new ways to produce and edit creative content from team members’ homes.
Our businesses around the world are taking similar measures, as appropriate to their local situations.
Protecting and Recognizing Our Team
We are able to serve our customers and support our communities only through the incredible dedication and effort of our 25,000 Qurate Retail Group team members worldwide. I could not be more proud of how our team has responded to this crisis.
All team members who can work at home are now doing so, including virtually all our office team members in all markets and business units around the world and most members of our customer service teams. Our Global IT team has been working round-the-clock to enable remote connections on a greater scale than we have ever done before.
For team members who need to perform their jobs on-site, including our fulfillment center and studio production teams, we’re taking every precaution to protect their health and safety. We’ve reduced the number of people on-site to allow for more social distancing; we’ve limited visitors and we are screening all people who come into our sites; and we’ve elevated cleaning protocols in alignment with the CDC’s recommendations.
In our U.S. fulfillment centers, we’ve modified many site procedures to increase social distancing and protect team members. We’re mandating six-foot separation; we’ve suspended productivity tracking so team members can focus on safety; we’ve discontinued start-up huddles and other large gatherings; we’ve adjusted our security screening to provide more space between people; and we’ve modified project timelines and rescheduled events to reduce the number of non-local team members and vendors visiting sites.
I want to express my deepest appreciation to our team members who are doing everything they can to support our customers and communities through these unprecedented circumstances – especially to those on-site at our studios, fulfilment centers, and customer care operations.
We’re allowing every on-site team member the option to stay at home, for any reason, with no penalty or career harm for making that choice, and we’ve taken steps to soften the financial impact of those decisions. For our U.S. team, we have suspended our attendance policies and time off policies to provide maximum flexibility for team members who may need or want to stay home. We’re providing up to 80 hours of emergency time off pay for certain COVID-19 related situations, and options for our team members to receive partial emergency time off pay for any reason, inclusive of navigating personal and family situations in this challenging time. As an appreciation for those whose work is required to be conducted on-site, we are offering recognition pay through the end of April to include an increase of $2 per hour for all hourly team members and an increase for salaried team members.
We offer a variety of options through our Employee Assistance Programs to support our team members’ wellbeing. To help team members faced with financial and personal hardships as result of the pandemic, we are exploring additional options to provide relief and flexibility. We are also working to identify ways in which team members can support one another. Multiple team members have already reached out to me or my leadership team, offering to help their colleagues. I continue to be humbled by our team’s sense of caring and community.
Supporting Our Communities
We’re harnessing the power of our airwaves and digital platforms, and we’re mobilizing the collective compassion of our customers and team members.
We’ve been donating our airtime to spread the word on healthy practices by sharing public service announcements from the non-profit Ad Council, and we’re generating new ideas to use our broadcast and other platforms to share important information to benefit our communities nationwide.
We’re seeing a spike in hunger across our communities, driven in part by social distancing. To help fill urgent food needs, we will be launching an awareness and fundraising campaign, on air and online, encouraging customers and team members alike to donate to Meals on Wheels America and No Kid Hungry. Qurate Retail Group will match customer and team member donations, up to a total company contribution of $1 million.
- Meals on Wheels America delivers food to seniors across the U.S. The Meals on Wheels COVID-19 Response Fund is helping seniors stay nourished, with emergency funds to replenish food supplies, subsidize additional transportation and personnel costs, and enable tech-based efforts to check-in on isolated seniors.
- No Kid Hungry is focused on ending child hunger. No Kid Hungry is making emergency grants to school districts and community organizations to provide children with free meals during this crisis. The funds support home-delivered meals, pop-up meals programs, school and community pantries, and backpack programs.
This is only the beginning of the ways we will help our communities worldwide come through this period, as we explore additional support programs that we hope to announce in the coming days and weeks.
United With the Retail Community
In addition to being an unprecedented health threat, this pandemic is causing social and economic disruptions on a scale not seen since the Second World War. This is a difficult time for retailers, the vast majority of which are small businesses with limited capacity to absorb a sudden, sharp drop in customer activity. As chairman of the National Retail Federation (NRF), I’m proud of the work our NRF team is doing in Washington to bolster our industry and advocate for the federal programs needed to help retailers of all sizes weather this storm, most notably, the economic stimulus package Congress is finalizing.
We at Qurate Retail Group have always been proud to support the brands we work with—both big and small. We continue to give our community of vendors and entrepreneurs a way to stay connected with customers—and to support their businesses. Particularly in times such as these, our broadcasts and digital platforms enable brands to efficiently reach large audiences of shoppers in their homes. Shortly, we’ll be announcing an exciting initiative to do even more to help small businesses and leverage our platform to tell their inspiring stories.
As we continue to monitor this rapidly unfolding crisis, we will continue to look for ways to make a positive impact for our customers, team members, communities, and vendors around the world. This is a difficult time. But we can get through this, if we act with humanity, rely on each other, and strive, always, to do the right thing.