Britney Spears Launching Kohl's Back to School in Style

Last Updated Aug 26, 2010 2:42 PM EDT

With back-to-school season coming, Kohl's (KSS) and Candie's are making the most of a partnership with Britney Spears by developing an Internet microsite that sells the intermeshed brand and personality with some style.

Kohl's is deploying Candie's brand â€"- which it sells exclusively on license from the Iconix Brand Group (ICON) â€"- and Spears as its point of attack for the back to school season. The microsite unifies and fleshes out the retailer's Candie's/Spears initiative. Best of all from the retail perspective, it provides direct links to Kohl's E-commerce website, so there's no pesky delayed gratification to impede a purchase from consumers enticed by the styles showcased.

It ain't exactly Audrey Hepburn, but Kohl's and Iconix hired three fashion photographers, including Annie Liebovitz, to shoot Spears in her Candie's, and their takes provide independent viewpoints on both Spears and the apparel. The images are provocative without being tacky, even when Spears is draped over a motorcycle. It may be an adolescent twist on glamor, but it should be effective given the tweens and teens that the brand is designed to dress. Critically, the shoot isn't so provocative -- more pinup than Penthouse -- that the parents of Candie's fans might begin blocking the site or, more to the point, access to their credit cards.

The home page offers Spears in a little black dress and invites viewers to shop Kohl's immediately or to "Watch Britney Through the Lens." Consumers can shop Kohl's by trend in two designations, girls 7 to 16 and juniors. Clicking on the trends for those groups brings up a range of apparel and accessories. They also can shop by product category.

The Britney presentation includes samples of each photo shoot, so it employs different settings and different clothing. Each opens from a camera lens graphic to show a posing Spears, but the frame includes links to Kohl's E-commerce web site in every case.

Consumers can access the Spears microsite from Kohl's through its brands directory or through the Candie's website, which offers a more elaborate presentation including behind-the-scenes videos for the photo sessions and, of course, a link to Kohl's.

The Candie's home page also promises a new Candie's collection from Britney herself, which is slated to debut on July 1 but can be previewed on the website. The apparel is not available for viewing yet, though, and, at last check, the site did not say when it would be.

The Britney Candie's collection debut will launch Kohl's back-to-school season, when an inordinate amount of tween and teen apparel is sold. In an August conference call last year, Kevin Mansell, Kohl's CEO, characterized the retailer's partnership with Candie's and Kohl's as "especially important" to establishing an effective marketing proposition in the season, and what was true last year certainly is again for 2010.

Until two years ago, Kohl's and Candie's annually named a new spokesceleb to boost the brand, with Hayden Panettiere preceding Spears. This year, though, they broke precedent by renewing Spears. The move seemed opportunistic, as she was in the midst of her big Circus tour, which provided publicity that reflected on Kohl's and Candie's.

Now, the relationship between the three seems to be evolving. The Candie's microsite version includes the landing point for a sweepstakes-centered Spears-oriented advertising effort linked by to Kohl's. Candie's is Kohl's top end tween/teen label, but the company added the mid-priced Mudd brand last year to bulk up its assortment for those demographics and to create create a continuity with the retailer's bargain SO brand. Young women are important to apparel retailers that want to forge a relationship that ensures a future selling them and eventually, through them, their kids.

With a website, advertising effort and product launch all focused on her, Kohl's is bettering heavily that Spears can make it a priority destination for consumers who might otherwise be checking out Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) and Aeropostale (AERO) in the summer's latter half. If so, Kohl's can bask in Spears star power all season long. Unless she has another meltdown. Or maybe Kohl's is counting on all publicity being good publicity.