Vendors of Oprah's Favorites Brace for Sales Boom
MICHELE NORRIS: It's called the O Factor, you know, when Oprah endorses a book or other product and sales immediately shoot to the roof. Well, today, she did it again.
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OPRAH WINFREY: My Favorite Things 2007.
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Unidentified Man: It's the holiday sale that sparks the frenzy.
Unidentified Woman #1: This one's great.
Unidentified woman #2: (Unintelligible).
NORRIS: It's become a tradition for Oprah Winfrey to pick about 20 of her favorite things and then she gives those things away to her studio audience. This year, the list includes a camcorder and electric mixer, mostly products made by large companies. But sometimes Oprah takes a fancy to something from a small mom-and-pop operation. For that small business, the good news is that they made the list. And sometimes the bad news is...
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NORRIS: Okay, it's not actually a stampede, but let's just say there's a big spike in sales. Vincent Larouche is the creative director for LAFCO, that's Luxury Articles and Fragrance Company. He joins us now. His products were on Oprah Winfrey's favorite list today. He has six employees and they are readying themselves for the Oprah onslaught, but Mr. Larouche is taking time out to talk to us.
So what is it that you sell that Oprah just can't live without?
VINCENT LAROUCHE: We sell beautiful, wonderful handmade soaps. They're made by a Portuguese company that's been doing it for about 117 years in the same family. It's a great old factory and it's called Claus Porto. And Oprah apparently just loves them.
NORRIS: And these are fragrance soaps?
LAROUCHE: Yes, they are. They're beautifully fragrance soaps. They're milled several times and milling is actually the process of mixing the soap, and the more you mix the soap, the harder it gets and also the more the fragrance distributes itself evenly throughout the soap, which means that if it's milled seven times like ours are, you get a nice fragrance at the very end of the bar.
NORRIS: And how much this sets you back?
LAROUCHE: It's $15 for a bar. They're quite large bars. So...
NORRIS: So I'm trying to imagine when you get this call from Oprah Winfrey studios letting you know that you're going to be on her favorite list this year. There's probably lots of screaming and yelling and high fives. And when you put the phone down, you think, oh my God, what about inventory?
LAROUCHE: That is correct. We were very nervous about it and the fact that she chose these products was great. We then had to put that in gift form for the members of the audience because we didn't have them pre-packaged in gift forms, so we made a nice gift packaging up over at our warehouse and we ended up over there, everybody including myself, wrapping the packages and everyone was there wrapping up soaps and we're all very excited about it.
And at this point, we still - we weren't actually sure that those soaps would be chosen, so it was a little nerve-wracking, but it was great and...
NORRIS: So - I had to stop you. You have to go through all of these hassle, wrap up all those soaps for the studio audience and you're not even sure if you are going to be on the final list?
LAROUCHE: Yeah, you're not really sure until really, they really don't tell you until the segment has been filmed.
NORRIS: So, Vincent Larouche, you're heading into the holiday season. Normally, you'd see an increase in sales at this point.
NORRIS: What did you expect to do for the holiday season and what are you expecting now that you've got the Oprah endorsement?
LAROUCHE: Well, let me put it this way, we had the show taped in Chicago this morning at 10:00 a.m. So that was a local show. And we had almost immediately over a thousand hits to our Web site. The folks at Oprah were very, very kind and very helpful because they did send us, and I - you know, they deal with very, very large companies, we're a much smaller company. They did send us all the information that we needed to make sure that our Web site wouldn't crash because they have something like four million hits per day during these shows on their Web site and they send us all the technical things to go through so that we wouldn't crash.
NORRIS: So they gave you instructions, you tried to ready yourself, why do you get this feeling that you're crossing your fingers even as we have this conversation?
LAROUCHE: Well, because the kind - this kind of opportunity really doesn't come along too often to anyone, let alone a company such as ours. We are very grateful that we've been picked.
NORRIS: How did Oprah come across it?
LAROUCHE: Well, we've been submitting products for quite some time.
NORRIS: You've been selling it to her.
NORRIS: So you've try this?
LAROUCHE: We have been sending products to Oprah for a couple of years now.
LAROUCHE: We literally sent every single product that we have in the store at some point or another.
NORRIS: Oprah, better check your mailbox. She might be getting an NPR coffee mug...
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NORRIS: ...coming her way.
LAROUCHE: There you go.
NORRIS: Vince Larouche, thank you very much.
LAROUCHE: Well, thank you so much.
NORRIS: Happy Holidays.
LAROUCHE: All right, you too.
NORRIS: That's Vincent Larouche. He's the owner of LAFCO, that's the Luxury Articles and Fragrance Company. Their soap product called Claus Porto was chosen today as one of Oprah Winfrey's favorite things.
This is NPR. National Public Radio.
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