Jessica Simpson, John Varvatos, Nicole Richie Jessica Simpson, John Varvatos, Nicole Richie

NBC's new reality competition Fashion Star got off to a slow start last Tuesday, but producers say they're still heartened by the fact that the show's winning designs have been selling well online. The retailers involved — including Macy's, H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue — say they're selling out of many of the show's winning designs. "Sales of Fashion Star merchandise exceeded expectations," says Macy's spokesperson Holly Thomas.

Fashion Star centers on a group of aspiring designers who are mentored by Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and famed designer John Varvatos; supermodel Elle Macpherson is host. Buyers from Macy's, H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue serve as judges and decide whether to buy and market any of the contestants' clothes. Because the show was pre-taped, the winning clothing items immediately go on sale at the retailers' websites after the show.

In last week's premiere episode, a buyer for Macy's purchased three designs from the show's contestants, and by the next day, one of the designs had sold out on its online store. Thomas says a kimono-sleeve maxi caftan dress by contestant Nikki Poulos, with a price tag of $89, "sold out in less than 12 hours, and other items have sold out in certain sizes. Traffic to the store and the site have been very strong." But Macy's and the other retailers declined to specify how large of a stock they had actually ordered of the winning designs.

H&M sold out on a $19.95 black-and-turquoise dress from contestant Sarah Parrott, while Saks Fifth Avenue sold out on a limited supply of $350 zipper mini-skirts from contestant Orly Shani. "The people who showed up were coming to buy," executive producer Ben Silverman says of viewers who checked out the online stores. "The click-through rate on purchase was hundreds of percentage points higher than normal."

Fashion Star managed to win its premiere timeslot among broadcast networks in the key adults 18-49 demographic — but with a paltry 1.6 rating, on a night in which everyone was in a slump. The show moves to its normal time, Tuesdays at 10 p.m., tomorrow, but producers are anxiously awaiting the arrival of The Voice — which will launch its Tuesday results shows on April 3 at 9 p.m., giving Fashion Star a much-needed lead-in boost.

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