The Midas Touch? Michelle Obama's Fashion Choices Move Markets

First lady's fashion selections affect retailers, stock market.

Nov. 8, 2010 — -- First lady Michelle Obama is hailed as one of the world's best-dressed women. From couture creations to off-the-rack ensembles, the clothes she wears fly off the shelves.

The designers whose creations are picked by the first lady not only experience a surge in popularity, but, according to the results of a study published in the November issue of the Harvard Business Review, their stocks can get a significant boost.

The study's author, David Yermack, professor of finance and business at New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business, performed a year-long analysis of the economic impact of Obama's apparel selections.

He found that her choices had a major influence on clothing markets.

Obama's Choices Benefit Seventh Avenue and Wall Street

"Each single appearance of hers could move a stock price by $14 million," Yermack told "Good Morning America."

According to Yermack's results, Obama made 189 public appearances between November 2008 and December 2009. During that time, she wore items from 29 publicly traded companies, including J.Crew, the Gap, Saks Fifth Avenue and Target.

Those companies raked in an estimated $2.7 billion as a result of Obama's donning their apparel, Yermack calculated.

J.Crew has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the first lady's sartorial selections. Obama has sported outfits from the popular mall chain on several high-profile occasions.

The day after she appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" dressed in a canary yellow outfit from J.Crew, traffic on the chain's website soared 64 percent. When she showed up at a cancer center in London dressed in a cream, hand-beaded cardigan and pencil skirt from J.Crew, the outfit sold out within hours.

Talbots, a brand struggling to change its frumpy image, also got a bottom line boost when Obama wore its $169-dollar dress for a photo on the cover of Essence magazine last year.

It's not just a specific label that can stand to gain. Stores that carry the first lady's favored brands -- such as Saks Fifth Avenue – also appear to benefit in the long run, Yermack found.

Influence Extends Overseas

Obama's Midas touch has followed her overseas. During a trip to Europe last year, the stock prices of the companies whose clothing she wore increased by 16.3 percent, Yermack found.

Companies whose designers weren't worn by Obama appeared to suffer. Yermack's analysis showed that 27 companies whose designers weren't favored by Obama during the same period actually lost .4 percent in value.

Very few celebrities seem to have had similar impact on company stock prices, and Yermack believes that's because consumers know she doesn't get money for wearing any of her ensembles.

After 18 major appearances by Obama, the designers whose clothing she wore had a 2.3 percent jump in sales, compared to a .5 percent average gain that a company could see when it announces a new celebrity endorser, according to Yermack's results.

Other style-conscious first ladies don't have the same influence that Obama does, primarily because they may tend to wear clothes from one specific designer, Yermack said.

Carla Bruni, the French first lady, appears in public wearing mostly Dior – a high-end label that comes with a hefty price tag.

Obama, on the other hand, regularly mixes and matches clothiers.

"I think one of the reasons that she has this effect is she wears both high culture and kind of everyday fashion so it doesn't seem out of reach," Yermack noted.

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