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What’s in a name? Identification–and dollars


Kohl’s has a penchant for celebrity partnerships. In fact, stars have helped the company promote its products across all departments. Former MTV host Daisy Fuentes has had her own line of apparel with the company since 2004. Ashley Judd is the face of American Beauty, a cosmetics line made by Estée Lauder’s Beauty Bank division, exclusively for Kohl’s. Cristina Saralegui, host and executive producer of “The Cristina Show,” the leading U.S.-produced program on Spanish language television, has her own home line, which includes domestics items such as bath towels, sheets, table linens, bedding and furniture.

“Partnering with Kohl’s, one of the most respected and fastest growing national retailers in America, enables me to share my creative vision with a broader audience,” said Saralegui at the time of her brand’s launch. “The Casa Cristina brand creates a new layer in American style by combining my personal creativity with the warmth and excitement of Hispanic and global design.”

Partnering with “world class partners” has been a part of Kohl’s mantra since it began, in earnest, to grow its number of exclusive brands a few years ago. In addition to working with Fuentes, Judd and Saralegui, Kohl’s also worked with skater Tony Hawk on a skater-inspired line for boys, and tennis phenom Serena Williams on her own line of cosmetics in its Flirt! collection. Rockers Pat Benatar, Cheyenne Kimball and Fergie have all appeared in recent television advertisements for Candie’s, a trendy shoe line that is sold exclusively at Kohl’s. Celebrities such as Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Aniston, Ashlee Simpson, Carmen Electra, Alyssa Milano, Courtney Cox Arquette, Jewel and Kelly Clarkson also have worn Candie’s over the years.

“We are extremely pleased with customer response to the Candie’s brand,” said Kevin Mansell, president of Kohl’s. “We are confident that the uniqueness of the…celebrity-driven marketing program, combined with great fashion, category expansions and in-store graphics will continue to resonate with young shoppers and further differentiate…Kohl’s.”

Although Kohl’s certainly does have a bevy of celebrity partnerships, the retailer has been careful to choose stars that resonate with customers who shop in its stores. When Kohl’s chose Saralegui to do a home furnishings line for the company, it performed outside research to make sure that she would resonate with its Hispanic shopper base.

“Cristina has significant name-recognition among Kohl’s Hispanic shoppers and we believe Cristina’s vibrant sense of style will appeal to a broad cross section of consumers,” Mansell said at the time of the line’s announcement.

A report released last year from The NPD Group reveals just how important choosing the right celebrity can be when it comes to merchandising. While a celebrity alone won’t sell a product, the right celebrity could help grab the attention of a person who may not have otherwise noticed the product.

“They can cut through the clutter of the competition, but they can also cut the brand power in half,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group. “If the wrong celebrity is used…then [his or her] association with a brand can backfire.”

When Kohl’s initially announced that it was teaming up with Vera Wang to launch an apparel line this fall, investors were afraid that Wang’s high-end fashion designs, often worn by celebrities themselves, would not translate as well into everyday lower-end fashion, even if Kohl’s gave the line its “best” price point in women’s sportswear. Recent reports from analysts who have met with Kohl’s management assure that these initial assumptions were wrong.

“Kohl’s conducted a significant amount of consumer research for the Vera Wang product line,” said Deborah Weinswig, a senior retail analyst for Citigroup, in a recent report. “As such, we believe that investor fears regarding this product line being too fashion-forward [for Kohl’s customers] are overdone.”

In addition to the Wang line, Kohl’s has another significant opportunity to continue its celebrity bent this fall, with an exclusive branded housewares line from the Food Network. The company originally tested out a Rachael Ray cook-ware line in October 2006. The network’s other celebrity chefs, such as Mario Batali and Paula Deen, will be involved in marketing the line.

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