Lines by Madonna and other celebs pop up in stores

Associated Press Modified: November 27, 2012 at 4:31 pm •  Published: November 27, 2012
Advertisement

Simpson's business savvy has inspired other celebs. "I admire Jessica Simpson a lot because she has branded her line to become a huge success," wrote "Jersey Shore" reality TV show star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi in an email to The Associated Press.

Polizzi last year started selling perfume and nail polish, among other items at HSN home shopping network and to beauty chain Perfumania. This fall, she expanded her collection to include jewelry. She also plans to add headphones and accessories next year.

"I bring in my ideas on what type of bottle shape I'd like, to different designs of animal print or clothing designs to my favorite smells from soaps, lotions (and) hair sprays," Polizzi wrote.

BEYOND THE NAME

Attaching a star's name to a tee shirt or earrings does not guarantee success. Generally, how well a line does varies greatly, and depends on a number of factors, including the star's popularity and involvement in the design, the quality of the merchandise and the marketing of the brand.

There are all sorts of ways celebrity lines are started. But in many scenarios, the idea of starting a collection comes from the celebrity, who shops the concept around to manufacturers and stores. How the deals are structured varies widely.

The lines can be a gamble for stores. For one, their success often is closely tied to one person whose popularity can fade quickly among finicky fans. And while shoppers may grab celebrity brands when the lines debut, they may not return if they don't like what they see after that.

"The celebrity name draws the fan base to the product but at the end of the day, the product has to stand on itself," says Michael Stone, president of The Beanstalk Group, a global brand licensing agency. "It has to be well priced and well designed."

Indeed, industry experts say for every celebrity brand that is a hit, five others flop. Anyone remember hip hop star and actor L.L. Cool J's casual clothing line with Sears? It lasted less than a year after its launch in 2008. One reason was that the collection of hooded sweatshirts and jeans failed to catch the eyes of Americans at a time when the country was in a deep recession.

It's also key that the clothes reflect the personality of the celebrity because many consumers will want to emulate their style. For example, Lopez, 43, shuttered her Sweetface clothing collection in 2009, six years after launching it at several department stores, in part because shoppers didn't believe that the line matched her glam style. The collection, which included sweat pants instead of the fitted dresses Lopez is known for sporting, was seen as too casual.

But Lopez learned from that line. Last year, she launched an exclusive collection for Kohl's, which offers $99.99 platform wedge boots and $60 animal print faux-wrap dresses under her name. The collection is faring well, according to Kohl's, although the chain declined to give sales figures.

"Every look in this collection ... is something that people know I would wear," reads a statement by Lopez on Kohl's website.

It's also important that a celebrity doesn't say or do things that could reflect poorly on a store's image. Earlier this month, an angry customer started an online campaign calling for Macy's to dump Donald Trump's line of $65 power ties and $65 dress shirts after the billionaire verbally attacked President Barack Obama on social media after he won re-election.

Angelo Carusone, 30, has collected about 673,000 signatures on petition website signon.org. Carusone, once a loyal Macy's shopper, says he won't shop there again until the retailer severs ties with Trump. "Macy's is building a brand on Trump's consequence-free bullying," he says.

But Macy's has stood by the billionaire, and the uproar has since died down. "Macy's marketing and merchandise offerings are not representative of any political position," says Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman for the chain.

Odd pairings also can be a concern. Indeed, Sears, a struggling retailer that is best known for selling appliances, raised eyebrows when it announced that it would carry clothes under the "Kardashian" name. The collection, which was launched last year, is named after "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" realty TV stars Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian.

The fashions embrace the individual looks of the sisters — Kim's glamorous style, Kourtney's Bohemian chic look and Khloe's rocker influence. There are $99 leopard print maxi dresses, $24 snakeskin print earrings and $40 metallic striped tops.

When thinking about Sears as a possible partner, Khloe says she at first thought of the retailer as a place just to buy "washers and dryers." But then, she says she and her sisters realized that Sears would enable them to achieve their goal of selling affordable clothes nationwide.

"We felt it was a good fit," she says. "It's like if you date a few people and then you want to marry that person."

Ron Boire, Sears' merchandising chief, declined to give sales figures, but says the line is doing well and gives the chain's clothing department a "younger, more progressive feel."

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the collection, the Kardashian sisters showed up at a Sears store in the Bronx borough of New York City on a recent Friday. More than 2,000 shrieking teens and young women came to get a glimpse of them.

Among them was Jenessa Cavallo, 23, a legal assistant. Until the Kardashian line was launched, she had never shopped at Sears. Now, she says that she keeps going back, spending more than $500 on Kardashian designs, including a faux fox fur coat, leather jacket and nail polish.

"I feel like I'm Kim," Cavallo says.