WOODBRIDGE, N.J. — Fans started lining up by 11:15 a.m. for the noon to 2 p.m. appearance by “American Idol” star Kimberly Caldwell at the J.C. Penney fragrance counter here.
Caldwell, the 21-year-old spokeswoman for the “American Idol” fragrances marketed by Beauty Innovations, has already held signings at Penney’s counters in Los Angeles, Miami and Houston, and will hit some 25 stores in major markets before the spring tour ends in Las Vegas in May.
Timothy McCarthy, store manager for the Woodbridge unit, said the event was drawing a bigger crowd than expected, as he watched lines form on either side of the stage, which was situated in the middle of Penney’s first-floor fragrance department.
When all was tallied, some 500 people had lined up and spent some $2,700 on “American Idol” fragrance items during the April 9 event.
It’s been a long time since there was a celebrity appearance in this Penney’s beauty department, noted McCarthy. “It was probably seven or eight years ago.” Priscilla Presley, Iman and Ivana Trump all have made stops here at one time to promote their respective fragrances and cosmetics. “The Iman launch drew well over 1,000 people, and for Priscilla, we had about five or six Elvis impersonators show up in the crowd,” he recalled.
Even Penney’s corporate fragrance buyer, Alyson Honeycutt, flew in from Dallas. “We are getting a tremendous reaction to Kimberly. She is very enthusiastic,” said Honeycutt. When launched at the end of January, the “American Idol” fragrances immediately ranked among Penney’s top 10 scents, she noted. “They have consistently continued to sell. We go through quite a number of units.” For the year, Honeycutt believes sales of the scents at Penney’s could reach $5 million.
Looking ahead, there will be promotional cosmetics for the back-to-school period and gift sets for holiday.
Watching the blossoming crowd as Caldwell signed autographs and posed for photos, Honeycutt remarked, “This is what cosmetics used to be. It gives my stores a great sense of pride and it provides them an opportunity for teamwork and a fun day.”
Honeycutt said Penney’s is trying to do more events with other brands. “This one just naturally lends itself to it.”
Caldwell, who was a finalist in the second installment of “American Idol,” ultimately won by Ruben Studdard, will release her first CD later this year. “It is being produced by Diane Warren and Randy Jackson,” she told WWD, taking a brief break from her fans.
Caldwell did not sing at Penney’s, but encouraged her fans to. Ginamarie Dieckmann, 9, of Staten Island, N.Y., who said she had voted for Caldwell, was one of many who took up the microphone with ease. Ginamarie’s mother, Joann, bought a bottle of the fragrance but wasn’t sure if her daughter would be wearing it. “We may give it as a gift,” said Joann Dieckmann.
There were three points of sale for the fragrances in the Penney’s department so that no one had to wait in a long line to pay. There were two access routes to Caldwell, a VIP line for those who purchased a fragrance and a line for nonbuyers. The VIP line moved faster.
Louise Caldwell (no relation to Kimberly), director of marketing for Beauty Innovations, said the crowd at Woodbridge Mall has been the best so far “in terms of purchasing the fragrance.”
McCarthy said the store boasts Penney’s strongest beauty department in New Jersey, with fragrance sales of $300 a square foot. Because of its centralized location, it draws shoppers from New Jersey suburbs as well as New Yorkers looking to save on sales tax. Unlike New York, New Jersey does not tax clothing.
The “American Idol” scents — Idol Spirit for Men and Idol Moments for Women — are priced at $24.50 for a 3.4-oz. eau de toilette. Ancillaries include a men’s deodorant for $6 and men’s and women’s fragrance gift sets for $35.
In addition to Penney’s, some other retailers have begun carrying the scents, including Kohl’s and CVS.