'Fashion Star' Goes Instantly From Reality TV to Retail

Fashion Star
Fashion Star

NBC's new reality show Fashion Star, which premieres Tuesday night, isn't your run-of-the-mill design competition. This one has a very tangible payoff -- and not just for the wannabe designers who are the contestants.

Immediately after each episode, the winning designer's line will be available at major retailers. We're talking real fashions for real-life viewers to spend their real paychecks on. Every single week.

It's a savvy cross-promotion marketing move that forges a link between prime-time TV and major retail chains in a big way. Sure, it'll be exciting for the contestants who win each week. But the three major retail chains -- Macy's (M), Saks (SKS) and H&M – could end up being the real winners.

Racing Down the Runway to a Store Near You

Like other design shows, models will strut down the runway wearing the contestants' designs, which will be judged by professionals -- in this instance, buyers from the three retailers.

The twist with Fashion Star is that the competition continues among the judges, who will compete for the right to purchase and exclusively carry the designers' creations. The day after each show airs, the winning designer's work will be available online or in stores.

The designers, of course, score big thanks to the exposure their work will receive, as well as from mentoring from such celebrities as singer and designer Jessica Simpson, actress and designer Nicole Richie, and award-winning designer John Varvatos. But all of them will have their eye on the main prize of $6 million in orders for collections at the three retailers.

Which Retailer Will Win?

The cross-promotion is a major win for the retailers involved. It's a sweet deal to have their stores represented every week in an hour-long show during prime-time TV. NBC gets love back by having Fashion Star splashed on the storefront windows of all three retailers and on their websites.

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"The stores will benefit because it distinguishes them and shows they are innovative and forward-thinking," says Walter Loeb, a longtime retail analyst and president of Loeb Associates in New York.

Whether the weekly winning designs will drive a flood of sales remains to be seen, but Loeb notes that it's likely to lead to an increase in foot traffic through the stores.

Loeb says that, of the three retailers, the contest is likely to hit H&M's sweet spot. H&M, which is known for affordable fashions, has had success in wrapping itself around a single designer (teaming up with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Jil Sander) with massive media campaigns and runway fashion shows in major cities.

Team Angst

Of course, cross-promotions have been around for decades, used to stretch marketing dollars and leverage the strengths of two or more companies, organizations, entities. The results, however, have been mixed.

Fast-food restaurant chain Burger King teamed up with the Star Wars franchise to market some of its characters from Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith in its Kids Meals, according to a CNN/Money report. The movie, however, was rated PG-13, a classification that would put it outside the realm of many of the Kids Meals' young patrons. As a result, the Dove Foundation called for Burger King to pull its Revenge of the Sith toys from its Kids Meals, the report noted.

Any Fashion Star drama will likely be played out on television screens and not in stores. But crowning the true winner might take awhile. Even when the show wraps for the season, the goods will linger in stores. Ultimately, consumers get to vote in the stores with their money.

It will be interesting to watch whether these items are rapidly discounted, or develop into a new fashion trend.

Motley Fool contributor Dawn Kawamoto does not own stock in any of the companies listed. She is, however, a fan of clothes shopping -- big time.