Oprah flexes her endorsement power

Marketplace Staff May 27, 2010

Oprah flexes her endorsement power

Marketplace Staff May 27, 2010


Kai Ryssdal:In Chicago today, Oprah Winfrey opened her second retail outlet. That may come as a surprise to those of us who didn’t know she had a first store. This one’s pretty small, a glorified kiosk really that she’s billing as a micro-salon, inside a mall in Chicago. But Oprah’s not really one to do anything small, so you can bet there are more on the way.

We asked Jeff Horwich what might happen as the queen of daytime TV moves from your living room to the local mall.

Jeff Horwich:What’s in an Oprah store anyway? Well, the first one opened two years ago in her Chicago studios — mugs, umbrellas, handbags, tableware…

Oprah: Pajamaaas! — when I’m not working, oh…

That’s Oprah giving a video tour. The question is, what’s not in an Oprah store? If Oprah wants to put her stamp on it, it’s fair game — including crafts from South Africa, where she does charity work.

The new store is much smaller, just 140 square feet. But it’s her first big step into the outside brick-and-mortar world.

Kristin Bentz: For a brand this large, quite frankly, I’m surprised that she never did this sooner.

Retail analyst Kristin Bentz says Oprah is a unique brand. On one hand, she’s wealthy and awash in desirable merchandise to recommend. But somehow she does it without making you jealous.

Bentz: Women want to be her, but at the same time, they’re not threatened by her.

Jon Bresler is president of the soap and fragrance company LAFCO. Three years ago, Oprah gave everyone in her studio audience a bar to take home.

Jon Bresler: She put it in front of everybody in America and had them craving something that they had never seen before.

Bresler sees Oprah’s endorsement as a helpful shortcut for shoppers.

Bresler: There’s a lot of product out in the market, and I think consumers are looking for guidance on what to buy.

One thing to know about the Oprah stores is that they sell Oprah-branded stuff. Will Oprah fans like Julie Peterson follow her as she moves from endorsing other people’s products to hawking her own?

Julie Peterson: That I might be a little more skeptical about.

Then again, Oprah’s a pretty good saleswoman.

I’m Jeff Horwich for Marketplace.

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