April 25--Shares of struggling Evine Live, the Eden Prairie-based home shopping network, shot up more than 30 percent to above $1 on Tuesday after a report surfaced that Amazon is thinking about buying it.
The report by the website TechCrunch cited an unnamed industry source who said the online juggernaut has had discussions with Evine about buying it.
An Evine spokeswoman said the company does not comment on speculation in the market. Amazon declined to comment.
Amazon has dabbled with its own home shopping-style live video programming in the past. It ran a show called "Style Code Live" replete with hosts and special guests who offered fashion and beauty tips while also promoting various products. But the program ended after a year in 2017.
Matt Sargent, senior vice president of retail at consulting firm Magid, said it would make sense that Amazon might be interested in Evine in order to tap into the growing boomer demographic, which has been a relative strength of home-shopping networks.
"That's where Amazon is weak," he said, pointing to his firm's data that show that only 31 percent of Boomers are Prime members compared to 54 percent among millennials. "This could be an interesting bridge in my mind to that population in potentially converting them to" digital shoppers.
For the same reason, Sargent added, Evine could also be a potential acquisition target for Walmart.
This would not be the first time Evine Live has received outside interest, especially as its shares have dropped to below $2 in the last few years. Late last year, a group of investors including a former Evine executive, offered to buy its assets in the hopes of reinvigorating the network, but withdrew its offer after being rebuffed several times.
"We are flattered by the interest that everybody recognizes that we are undervalued," Tim Peterman, Evine's former chief financial officer, told analysts last year. "When you look out at the opportunity for us from stakeholders' perspective, we're just starting our growth phase."
Evine Live, the distant third-place player to QVC and HSN, has felt the squeeze in recent years as younger consumers have cut the cord from cable and online retailers such as Amazon have risen in prominence. Activist shareholders took control of its board in 2014 and put in new management. In 2016, there was more turnover at the top with the departure of a CEO and Bob Rosenblatt, the board chairman, taking over that role.
Under Rosenblatt, Evine has been launching new brands, transitioning to HD and rebalancing the merchandise mix to focus on more profitable goods. The company has also begun selling sex toys in a new late-night program.
While the company has stabilized its profits in the last year, its challenge continues to be drawing in new viewers to drive sales growth.
"Management wants to go on offense, but it is becoming more clear it is easier said than done," Mark Argento, an analyst with Lake Street Capital Markets, wrote in a research note last month. "We believe a heightened sense of urgency exists given the company's relatively low valuation, but we believe there is real strategic asset value in its much-improved/enhanced direct-to-omnichannel consumer platform."
In an e-mail, Argento noted that if the Amazon buzz pans out, the timing of an acquisition seems strange because Peterman, the former CFO, left earlier this month to take a job at another company.
The company has already replaced him with Diana Purcel, an executive who has worked at Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants and Famous Dave's.
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