PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Fashion hauling is a hot new trend in marketing and it's turning ordinary shoppers into celebrities. Elisabeth Harrison met a mom from Warwick who is using the trend to launch a new career as a professional blogger and fashionista.
"I hope these are on sale. Let me see," says Audrey McClelland. She's in her element hunting for a bargain at Old Navy in the Providence Place Mall. She selects a pair of fleece pants with blue and green stripes, on sale for eight dollars.
"I always go into the store with at least a mindset of what I'm looking for. And today it's all about the pajamas," says McClelland.
McClelland left a career in fashion in New York City to move home to Rhode Island and raise her four young sons. When she gets home from her shopping trip, she will make a video about what she bought and post it on her blog - mom generations dot com - and on YouTube.
On one of her videos, McClelland talks about a shopping trip to Old Navy. She's what's known as a shopping hauler. Kate Rose of Google says its one of the fastest growing trends on You Tube.
"We've looked at You Tub searches, so queries that happen on our site, and searches for the term shopping haul were up 150% at least as of November of this year, says Rose. "As far as the number of videos, the last count that we had was a little over 200-thousand haul videos so a lot of people are getting involved to do this."
A spunky Blair Fowler has a hauling video. "Hey Everyone. OMG double h k p, I don't know what that means I just made it up but," she says.
Fowler, a teenager from Tennessee, who along with her older sister Elle, is an icon of fashion hauling. In this video, she sits in on bed framed in medium close-up and shows off a new dress.
"And its black its scoop neck and it has this really cute beaded design but its just a simple black dress and I got this because its gonna be good especially with the holidays coming around - ex-specially, I know it's especially, I was raised to say especially so that's what I'm gonna say."
Believe it or not, this video has gotten nearly a million views in just a few months on YouTube. Numbers like that caught the attention of Good Morning America, and recently there has even been talk of a reality t-v show. Apparel chains like Forever 21 and TJ Maxx have also taken notice, offering gift cards, video contests and other incentives to the Fowler sisters and other haulers.
Elaine Notarantonio is a professor of marketing at the Bryant University School of Business. She says consumer engagement is sort of the new hot strategy among marketers. Notarantonio says there's no doubt hauling can help companies generate buzz, but there can be a downside if haulers are perceived as being in the company's pockets.
"Companies who do this, who provide gift cards or free merchandise to haulers need to be aware of the potential downfalls, and what it could do to their image. It could jeopardize their image," she says.
Blogger Audrey McClelland insists that she is authentic in her hauling videos, and when she appears on a local television program called the Rhode Show. But she is also a paid spokesperson for Tide and Staples, and she does web editing for companies that include Lifetime, TJ Maxx and American Eagle. When her husband was laid of in September, she hired him to work for her.
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