Stores’ celebrity lines aren’t always a good fit
Retail • Stars must be truly involved for fashion products to be a success.
Published: December 2, 2012 07:01PM
Updated: December 3, 2012 07:32AM
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In this Aug. 23, 2012, photo, fragrances from the Kim Kardashian collection are displayed at a Lord & Taylor department store in New York. Celebrities have long dabbled in design, but with the growth of TV shows and websites that follow everything celebrities say, wear and do, interest in their clothing lines has risen in recent years. North America revenue from celebrity clothing lines, excluding merchandise linked to athletes, rose 6 percent last year to an historic peak of $7.58 billion in 2011, according to the latest figures available by The Licensing Letter, an industry trade. That’s on top of a nearly 5 percent increase in 2010. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

This holiday season you’re likely to spot singer Jennifer Lopez in Kohl’s. You could get a peek at pop music icon Madonna in Macy’s. You might even catch a glimpse of reality TV star Kim Kardashian in Sears.

Well, not literally.

These celebrities probably won’t be making guest appearances in the aisles of your favorite department stores. But clothes, shoes and even ties that bear their names will.

It’s part of a big push by stores to cash in on celebrities’ money-making names. The move can be savvy. After all, who wouldn’t want to don the stylish duds of a superstar? It can also be risky. The stars, figuratively, have to be aligned for celebrity lines to become a hit with shoppers. That can mean having the right celebrity pair up with the right store at the right time with the right amount of involvement in the design of the line.

“If it’s simply to monetize your moment in the sun, it is not going to work in the long term,” said Ivanka Trump, the billionaire daughter of real estate mogul Donald Trump and reality TV personality who has a line of $150 handbags and $125 pumps at Lord & Taylor and other stores. “You have to be involved in every aspect of the product line.”

Celebs have long dabbled in design. But with the growth of TV shows and websites that follow everything celebrities say, wear and do, interest in their clothing lines has risen in recent years. North America revenue from celebrity clothing lines, excluding merchandise linked to athletes, rose 6 percent last year, to $7.58 billion, according to the latest figures available from The Licensing Letter, an industry trade publication. That’s on top of a nearly 5 percent increase in 2010.

Department stores, facing growing competition from trendy fashion chains such as H&M, Mango and Zara, have jumped on the trend. They’re hoping to reap benefits from the lines during the holiday shopping season in November through December, a time when stores can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue. Big stores get as much as a quarter of their sales from celebrity brands, up from under 10 percent five years ago, according to market research firm NPD Group.

As interest from stores and shoppers grows, so does the list of celebs with their own lines. Aging rocker Bon Jovi just inked a fragrance deal with Avon Inc. Madonna has a new Truth or Dare line of perfume, over-the-knee lace-up boots and other shoes at several department stores. Nicole Richie, former reality TV star and daughter of singer and songwriter Lionel Richie, earlier this year rolled out an eponymous clothing line of $86.50 floral maxi skirts and $49.50 lace tops on QVC home shopping network.

And singer Jennifer Hudson’s new fashion collection was launched on QVC this fall. Hudson’s designs include $96.50 hooded jackets, $53 blouses and one of her favorite wardrobe staples —$50 leggings. Hudson, a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers weight-loss program, says her goal is to appeal to women of all sizes.

“Every piece is a part of me,” says Hudson, who recently slimmed down from a size 16 to a 6. “And it came from something that I have worn or would wear.”

The pioneers • Jaclyn Smith, who starred in the popular 1970s series “Charlie’s Angels,” pioneered the celebrity brand business in 1985 with a line of clothing and accessories at Kmart.

For more than a quarter of a century, the line that carries everything from $79 striped trench coats and $49 faux fur trimmed vests to $299.99 artificial Christmas trees and $179 dining sets, have become staples at the discounter. In fact, the products’ success has risen even though Smith, 67, has long been out of the spotlight. Kmart officials declined to give sales figures, but retail consultant Burt Flickinger estimates the line rings about a $250 million in annual revenue, which is considered healthy.

“She’s a beloved American icon,” said Flickinger, adding that the line has remained popular because it’s “timeless, in good taste and has quality.”

Kathy Ireland, 49, a former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, also turned her celebrity brand into a moneymaker. Since 1993, she has built a $2 billion global retail business, according to fashion trade publication Women’s Wear Daily. Her line includes more than 15,000 items, from curtains to wedding dresses that are sold in more than 50,000 small chains.

Ireland attributes her success to her methodical approach to expansion. In fact, her first foray into the business was socks. She wanted to see how something simple would sell before she rolled out swimwear, active wear and other items a year later in 1994.

More recently, singer Jessica Simpson, 32, has built her brand into a billion-dollar brand in the past seven years. She sells more than 29 products from shoes, clothes and perfume to purses and luggage in department stores such as Macy’s. For the winter holidays, items include $89 platform bright blue platform pumps and $128 strapless belted lace dresses.

Her formula for success has been having a relatable personality. Even as her singing career has wavered, branding experts say Simpson has been able to connect with her young fans because she’s vocal about everyday issues such as her struggles with weight gain.