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The Oprah Winfrey Show airs its final original episode on May 25, 2011. When that happens, it won’t just signal the end of a popular television show. It will signal the end of a venue that has catapulted obscure businesses to unexpected heights and increased sales beyond their owners’ wildest dreams.
It’s known as “The Oprah Effect,” and it’s been known to turn a struggling company into a commercial phenomenon after a single appearance on her show.
Click ahead and see some of the products that were put on the map by “The Oprah Effect.”
By Daniel Bukszpan, Special for CNBC.com
Posted 24 May 2011
Chicago’s Garrett Popcorn was featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2002 and 2005. The company has always enjoyed steady popularity since its 1949 founding, and lines often stretch around the block at its West Madison Street location. Their “Chicago Mix” flavor combines caramel and cheese and after it appeared on Oprah, Garrett’s status as a local business was over.
On the afternoon of the 2002 broadcast, the company received 100,000 hits on their website, and after one month they saw a 100% increase in their sales. They extended their daily production from eight hours a day to 24 hours a day, and they’ve never gone back. In 2010, Garrett showed its gratitude by creating a limited edition tin for the show, stuffed to the brim with the cheese and caramel concoction that had made them famous.
Many companies have seen their profits increase after an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. However, in the case of We Take the Cake, the appearance literally saved the company from bankruptcy. In 2002, Lori Karmel bought a struggling bakery, and after two years of toil, she had a profit of $19 to show for it. However, later that year, We Take the Cake’s Gourmet Key Lime Bundt Cake was featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things, and the store’s phone lines were swamped within hours.
Since then, We Take the Cake has experienced success. Its creations have been featured on the Food Network shows Road Tasted and Unwrapped, and in the pages of In Style magazine. Their cakes are also sold at Whole Foods in Florida and through the Neiman Marcus website. Karmel put it best when she said, "Nobody can put a company on the map the way Oprah Winfrey can."
Sara Blakely founded the women’s undergarment company Spanx, Inc. in 2000. Despite offering a wide array of products, the company became best known for one thing -- “bodysuit shapewear.” This line of garments provides its wearer with a slim figure, for a fraction of the cost of a gym membership. Spanx was featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2000, and they sold 50,000 of their products in just three months.
Since then, more than 5 million pairs of Spanx power panties have been sold, with no end in sight. Glamour magazine editor Suze Yalof Schwartz described them as “hosiery crack” to the The New York Observer, claiming to personally own at least ten pairs. The garment has proven so popular that men began to clamor for their own, so in 2010 the company responded with “Spanx for Men.”
Although it was not featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things, the publicity that Winfrey gave to a new gadget on her October 24, 2008 show still paid off handsomely. The gadget in question was the Amazon Kindle, the portable reading device that allows access to thousands of books, magazines and newspapers, while taking up less space than a single issue of National Geographic. "It's absolutely my new favorite, favorite thing in the world, " said Oprah.
Winfrey went on to tell people not to be scared off by the $359 sticker price. "I know it's expensive in these times, but it's not frivolous because it will pay for itself." She sweetened the deal by offering viewers a code that gave them $50 off the reader’s purchase price. Within two months, the Kindle was completely sold out.
Carol’s Daughter is a beauty product company founded by Lisa Price, who started off selling original fragrances out of her own kitchen. Despite the humble origin, her products caught on with celebrities such as Halle Berry and Jada Pinkett Smith, until the business outgrew her apartment and moved into a Brooklyn storefront. Then, in 2002, her products were featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and it changed everything.
Business exploded. In the third and fourth quarters of 2002, sales were three times what they were in the first and second. They eventually grew to $20 million a year, which allowed Carol's Daughter to open eight of its own stores. Today, its products are available in Dillard’s, Macy’s, Sephora and other stores across 39 states. Learn more about Carol's Daughter
Patricia Helding founded Fat Witch Brownies in 1991. The Manhattan-based bakery saw its fortunes change for the better in 2002, when their Brownie Gift Tin was chosen to appear on Oprah’s Favorite Things.
"We were lucky to be on Oprah's Favorite Things, and overnight things changed, " Helding said. "The phone did not stop ringing. You could not keep up with it. It took us six months to get through all the orders."
Jon Bresler and Vincent LaRouche are the founders of LAFCO New York. According to their website, they are the “purveyors and creators of the finest luxury articles & fragrance in the world,” and they have boasted celebrity clients like David Bowie and Penelope Cruz. However, they knew that an appearance on Oprah’s Favorite Things would take their company to a new level, and they spent seven years trying to get their products onto her show.
Their persistence finally paid off. Their Claus Porto Soaps appeared on the 2007 Favorite Things show, and their sales reached one million dollars within thirty days. They returned to the list in 2010 with their House and Home Collection of candles, and Oprah Winfrey sang their praises, saying, "This is the perfect amount of scent and the perfect amount of wick." Learn more about LAFCO New York.
Oprah Winfrey was given the Kyocera ceramic knife as a gift by celebrity chef and television personality Ming Tsai. Ever since then, she claims that it’s the only knife that she will ever use in the kitchen. The knives are razor sharp and because they’re ceramic, they won’t rust.
The Kyocera Advanced Ceramic knife 2-piece gift set was showcased in the 2010 edition of Oprah’s Favorite Things. The national cookware chain that sells the cutlery, Sur La Table, saw a 740% increase in their sales when the knife set was mentioned on the show.
UGG Australia makes bags, clothing and outerwear, but they’re best known for their classic sheepskin boots, known simply as “ugg boots.” The Classic Short Boots appeared on Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2003, and the appearance boosted the company’s sales significantly --- by 2008 they were reporting sales of $689 million.
The boots made another appearance on Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2010. For this momentous occasion, UGG created a special boot covered from top to bottom in sequins, and available in black, gold and silver. It also featured satin binding and the trademark sheepskin lining that UGG customers expect. Longtime fan Oprah Winfrey was duly impressed, calling the boots “dazzling.”
When the iPad was released by Apple in early 2010, the initial reaction was somewhat mixed. However, Oprah Winfrey fell in love with it instantly, and in November of that year, she called it her “number one favorite thing ever.” Considering that there have been hundreds of Favorite Things, that’s quite an accolade.
"Words cannot describe what I feel for this magnificent device. I really think it's the best invention of the century so far,” Winfrey gushed. “I write my column for O magazine on the iPad way before the deadline because I love writing on it so much, " she said.
By October 2010, the iPad had already sold nearly 8 million units, but by the end of the year, Apple had sold approximately 14.8 million iPads worldwide. Although Oprah’s endorsement was just one of many for the device, as for most of her “favorite things,” her endorsement could only help the success of this iconic product.