QVC expects 50 percent of sales coming from online by 2014

QVC Inc., e-commerce juggernaut?

Seems so. QVC, the television shopping network based in West Chester, has long had an online presence with its

But looking at the latest financial results for its parent company, Liberty Media Corp. , it’s clear that isn’t just a sideline portal for the 24/7 electronic retailer.

Twenty-eight percent of QVC’s U.S. sales in the third quarter, or $1.09 billion, came through its dot-com business. That’s up from 24 percent last year.

Mike George, president and chief executive officer of QVC, told financial analysts on a conference call Monday that the company’s internal goal is to generate half of its sales from by 2014.

“I don’t think that’s a crazy goal,” George said. “I think that’s a reasonable stretch goal.”

Overall sales for QVC in the third quarter rose to $1.67 billion from $1.64 billion a year ago, halting a four-quarter slide in sales. George said the company saw a 9 percent increase in the number of new customers in the quarter - the highest rate in the last seven years.

Consumer electronics and beauty products have become the biggest sales gainers for QVC as jewelry and apparel remain soft. George did note that the rate of decline in jewelry sales has moderated.

After the recessioninduced sales swoon during last year’s holiday shopping season, most retailers took steps to cut inventory and manage costs better in 2009. Last November, QVC announced plans to lay off 900 people. About 250 lost their jobs when QVC closed its West Chester call center last spring.

George told analysts, “We feel reasonably clean going into the holidays with the ability to chase goods if the sales are there.”

As it is for nearly all retailers, the fourth quarter represents some of the most important shopping weeks of the year. Unlike Macy’s and Wal-Mart, QVC doesn’t mind if holiday shoppers stay home, watch TV, and surf the Internet instead of hitting the shopping malls.