Clothing lines by Madonna, other celebrities pop up in stores

Madonna performs at the United Center in Chicago in September. Macy's is selling a line of clothing bearing her name.
Madonna performs at the United Center in Chicago in September. Macy's is selling a line of clothing bearing her name. AP photo

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 likely 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," says 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. Indeed, North America revenue from celebrity clothing lines, excluding merchandise linked to athletes, rose 6 percent last year to $7.58 billion in 2011, according to the latest figures available by The Licensing Letter, an industry trade publication.

That's on top of a nearly 5 percent increase in 2010.

Major 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 now 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. Holiday'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 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.

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.

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.

• Kathy Ireland, 49, a former Sportswear Illustrated swimsuit model, has built a $2 billion global retail business since 1993, 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.

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