One thread of disappointment that was buzzing around social media was how quickly the chosen designs sold out online even before Fashion Star episode #3 was over. The speed that the designs were designated as "sold out" online is causing questions to be raised about whether online sales are being purposely restricted in order to push people into brick and mortar stores.
This, of course, doesn't make logical sense since Saks only has 46 stores in 22 states and H&M only has 233 stores in the U.S. So it is more likely that the retail chains were cautious about production, not knowing how viewers would respond to the show.
There's a lot of downside to creating demand for a product and then not having the supply to fill the demand. There is something to be said for fabricated scarcity, but customers who repeatedly walk away empty-handed will eventually stop trying and possibly walk away from the show with a bad feeling about a good brand, taking their own social media network with them.
Will Macy's, H&M and Saks respond to the Fashion Star shopper-viewers who clicked away empty-handed last night? They will if they don't want to lose viewership, they will if they don't want to disappoint customers, and they will if they really care. H&M is probably the only retailer that has the fast fashion infrastructure in place to restock sold out designs, but Macy's and Saks could at least provide their Fashion Star fans with an explanation that would serve to satisfy.
For H&M the biggest benefit of the show is in building the H&M brand image. Even though H&M is one of the world's largest retail chains, and was named as one of the Most Valuable Brands in the World, the first H&M store opened in New York just 12 years ago. So there are plenty of Fashion Star viewers who are getting acquainted with the H&M brand for the first time through the television show. While the H&M reputation for low prices is pretty well known, the "fashion and quality" part of the H&M chain is not so well known.
In week three of Fashion Star, already shopper-viewers have gotten a feel for which designs look and feel like H&M clothes. As buyer Nicole Christie's design purchases are clarifying the H&M brand identity, the shopper-viewers are identifying themselves as belonging to the H&M customer base as well. "If I like the designs that H&M buys, then I must like shopping at H&M. " This kind of brand identification is one of the best outcomes that any of the retailers could want from their Fashion Star exposure.
As the show moves forward, Macy's, H&M, and Saks representatives are going to have to infuse more customer relationship best practices into the infrastructure of the Fashion Star experience in order to exploit more of the show's potential. There are dimensions of customer service and retailing execution in Fashion Star that aren't usually a part of the television producing experience, unless you're a home shopping channel. Delight has to outweigh dissatisfaction in this kind of fast fashion platform if it's going to work in the long run for the retail chains that are an integral part of the program.
Speaking of the long run... the show is probably not going to have one if it doesn't work on its formula. More clothes, less mentors. More designers, less mentors. More insight into buyer decision-making, less mentors. More cameras pointed at clothes, fewer runway distractions. More personality, less Elle McPherson.
The contrived star power hasn't helped the ratings, so air time might be better spent allowing the audience to get a personal connection with the designers and buyers, which is the foundation for shopper-viewer engagement. Personal connection and engagement is kind of the whole point of putting clothes and department stores on TV in the first place, isn't it? Actually, it should be the point, but so far it hasn't been the focal point of Fashion Star. For the sake of the unfulfilled potential of Fashion Star for both the retail chains and the NBC network, hopefully the producers will get the point soon.