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Hit Makers: The Future of Celebrity Shoes

Major markdowns, massive bailouts and government stimulus checks failed to jump-start the economy. Could celebrities be the ones to save it?

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Reba McEntire has new shoe line.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

A style from the Reba collection.

Photo By Courtesy Photo



No wonder, then, that retailers are rolling out the red carpet.

Pop-songstress Fergie’s offering of stilettos, gladiators and sneakers, priced from $89 to $129, is one of the more hotly anticipated lines to debut. And her lower-price Fergalicious line, retailing for $39 to $69, is aimed at the juniors’ market. Company officials said it would reach about 2,000 points of distribution, from independents to big boxes.

“We are so excited about the potential of the Fergie line,” said Rachel Funk, buyer and merchandiser at Shoemall.com. “We know it will be successful because of all the individual successes she’s had, from the Black Eyed Peas to her solo career to her movies.”

Shoemall.com bought 40 different styles, including dress shoes, sandals and athleisure looks.

“Consumers relate to Fergie,” said Gary Rich, president of Brown Shoe’s wholesale group. “They will continue to do so through her art, and she’s constantly on magazine covers and at runway shows.”

But Rich was quick to note that the success of celebrity lines is not just based on elevated exposure. He said it’s most important for the company producing them to be equipped for building a strong brand.

“It’s about product differentiation, conveying the celebrity’s DNA, understanding the target audience and understanding how that works with value and price,” Rich said, pointing to the success of Carlos Santana’s women’s line, which was launched by Brown Shoe nine years ago.

As easy as that sounds, it’s not.

For one, the latest batch of celebrities are competing against a number of notable names, whose shoes already are being sold with varying degrees of success. And so-called “celebrity fatigue” becomes likely as more star-studded product tie-ins are introduced. Ultimately, that can shorten the life span of the products.

So far, though, sales haven’t taken a huge hit, according to executives at a few vendors.

“There is no bad economy when you have good product,” said Joe Ouaknine, CEO of Titan Industries. “Despite all that’s going on in the world, you still have people with money, and they will buy if the product is outstanding.”

Ouaknine should know. The executive’s partnership with Gwen Stefani, the fashion force behind the L.A.M.B. and Harajuku Lovers collections, continues to pay big dividends.

“It is good, clean product with aggressive designs,” said Ouaknine, who added that he doesn’t consider Stefani’s shoes a celebrity line because her name never appears on the product.

Titan could get a further boost this spring, when Ouaknine launches Harajuku Lovers shoes. The collection debuts this month and will retail for less than $100.

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