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Could social media influencers help save retail?

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This article, Could social media influencers help save retail?, originally appeared on CBSNews.com

After a tough few years for traditional retail stores, some major chains are turning toward social media influencers. Retailers like Nordstrom needed to find new ways to connect with shoppers. Holiday traffic was slow in 2018, but the company posted better-than-expected earnings last quarter thanks in part to influencer Arielle Charnas. The idea is to turn the 31-year-old's likes into sales.

If you're wondering who influences Charnas most, look no further than her 1.2 million Instagram followers. "I get a lot of it from the girls who follow me. I mean, I don't think I'd be able to come up with this without them," Charnas said, showing CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller her latest line. It's a brand she launched a decade ago when she started posting some of her daily looks on her blog, Something Navy. Charnas' trendsetting recommendations on her blog and now Instagram have generated a young and enthusiastic fan base.

Now followers, hoping to copy her style, have a new way to connect through the Something Navy collection, a clothing and accessories line designed by Charnas exclusively for Nordstrom.  "How do you go from being a curator to a designer?" Miller asked her.

"So what was great for me and, well, what's great for influencers, in general, is that we get that feedback from our followers that brands don't," Charnas said. "I can see what… they gravitate towards when I post. So, you know, if it's a bright pink sweater instead of a beige sweater, I know I need to make more bright pink sweaters."

"I know the girl that follows me," she added. "I know she loves fashion but I also know that she still wants to look pretty and sexy." Charnas gets personal on Instagram, posting not only her fashion, but seemingly intimate moments with her husband and daughters. "That's what has created my following, is because nothing's edited. Everything's super real and authentic. I draw the line when it comes to certain things with my kids," Charnas said. "But… my job is to share my journey and my life." That journey now includes five collections with Nordstrom since the partnership began last year, from swimwear to basics to shoes and jewelry, each collection tailored to her followers' tastes.   For Nordstrom, Something Navy has given them something to talk about. The first two launches were the biggest in the company's history. "They literally sold out in 24 hours one time. Another time, they crashed the website within one hour. They made a million dollars in one day. So she is bringing in followers of hers. She's bringing in shoppers. And she's bringing in dollars," USA Today national business correspondent Charisse Jones said. She said Nordstrom is cashing in on Charnas' relatability. "They find her both accessible and aspirational, right?" Jones said. "Influencers are the new authorities."

For retailers like Nordstrom, Jones said it's important to partner with social media influencers "to introduce themselves to a new audience… and still survive at a time when old-school retailers are really struggling."

Traditional brands like Brookstone, , , and are seeking bankruptcy protection. Some analysts are calling it a retail apocalypse.  

For the first time this month, the Something Navy collection includes children's clothing and accessories. Charnas' daughters are both her muses and models. "Is it safe to say you're the retail industry's safe bet? Or would you say, are you saving retail for the long run?" Miller asked.

"I think we're saving it," Charnas said. "I think influencers are the best way to keep retail alive."

It doesn't hurt that the Something Navy collection also has an accessible price tag.

Walmart has also jumped on the influencer bandwagon, teaming up with the grade school to create a line of toys and t-shirts. He's got more than 18 million subscribers and last year.

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