Oprah Store is Open for Business

Media mogul enters the retail arena with Chicago store

If you like Oprah Winfrey’s “Favorite Things” you can now buy them in a store that adds to the media mogul’s sizeable empire. Winfrey is CEO of Harpo Inc., (No. 17 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $325 million in sales.)

The Oprah Store opened near Harpo Studios on Chicago’s near West Side. The first and only store of its kind to don the name of the potently famous talk show guru, the Oprah Store will sell “specialty merchandise that represents the style and taste [that] Oprah celebrates and shares on The Oprah Winfrey Show and in the pages of O, The Oprah Magazine and O At Home Magazine,” according to Winfrey’s camp.

The store will sell everything from $13 cosmetic bags decorated with pastel O’s to “a pair of Gianfranco Ferré brown crocodile ankle boots worth $300, taken directly from Oprah’s closet. The section of the store labeled “Oprah’s Closet” will consist of articles once worn or treasured by Winfrey. Mothers will also find “O Baby” a signature line of baby products, which were sold at Oprah.Boutique.com as a result of an Oprah show, entitled “The World’s Biggest Baby Shower.”

Steven Keith Platt, director of the Platt Retail Institute, suggests that this may only be the beginning for Winfrey’s plunge into retail. “If the clothing lines take off, look for more stores and a licensing deal with the likes of Target, J.C. Penney, etc.,” says Platt. “Oprah Winfrey is an American icon. If she puts her name on an apparel line, it will be huge- way beyond her own stores. If Martha Stewart can make it big at Kmart, [there] is no denying that our girl Oprah can.”

In keeping with her tradition of altruism, the profits from Oprah’s Closet, Angel Network Apparel, and O Baby merchandise will benefit Oprah’s Angel Network, a public charity that provides grants to not-for-profit organizations around the globe. Winfrey will also sell Leadership Academy Apparel and select South African arts and crafts, which will benefit The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation for Girls, a private learning and residential environment for grades 7-12 located in Henley-on-Klip, Guateng Province, South Africa.

This endeavor is not the only example of how Winfrey has been branching out to diversify her brand and harness the profitability of her massive popularity. Last fall, she endorsed Barack Obama as a presidential candidate and negotiated a cashless, 50% ownership stake in Discovery Communications to create OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, debuting in 70 million U.S. homes beginning in 2009.

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