Target Infuriates Scads of Customers With Weekend Sellout

Lilly Pulitzer For Target Pop-up Shop Activation
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for TargetTarget promoted the Lilly Pulitzer sale with a pop-up store last week in Manhattan.
By Hayley Peterson

Target's latest designer collaboration with the preppy prints label Lilly Pulitzer was a smash hit. Within hours, the entire limited-time collection sold out.​

Customers swarmed Target's stores and website early Sunday to get their hands on the patterned shift dresses, couch pillows, beach towels and more. Shoppers began lining up outside Target stores hours before they opened and the sheer amount of web traffic crashed the retailer's website multiple times.

The shopping event was so popular that it left many customers empty-handed, angry and vocal. Hundreds of people have vented their frustrations over the retailer's website failings and lack of inventory on social media, calling it "ridiculous," "pathetic" and an "epic fail."

Disappointed and Outspoken

"I am INCREDIBLY disappointed in Target," writes one customer on the company's Facebook page. "What a waste of time staying up all night for NOTHING. Why in the world you would make such a hype about this partnership and then not have the site prepared and have so little stock doesn't make any sense to me. Target, SHAME ON YOU."

Facebook user Lynne Gendernalik Schrage said she would no longer be shopping at Target after missing out on the sale, which included dresses for $40 by a designer whose clothes typically cost around $300. "I realize I am just one person, but this person walked out of your store at 8:10 this morning, absolutely and thoroughly disgusted, vowing to cancel my Target [card] that I haven't used in a year... and also vowing to never shop in your store again."

Yet, It's a Success

But overall, the Pulitzer line was a major victory for Target, which hasn't had such a successful designer partnership since the Missoni collaboration debuted in 2011. Like the Lilly for Target collection, the Missoni debut caused mass hysteria in stores, crashed the website, and sold out in a matter of hours.

But Target's designer collaborations since then haven't generated as much excitement. A Neiman Marcus partnership in 2013 famously bombed, even though it was launched during the holiday shopping season with Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, and Diane Von Furstenberg. The collection failed so miserably that Target eventually had to discount some of the merchandise by as much as 70%. The main problem with the collection was that designers offered items like yoga mats and dog bowls instead of clothes.

With the Lilly Pulitzer collaboration, Target has proved that it "still rules the roost when it comes to creating buzz with its designer collaborations," writes Phil Wahba in Fortune. "Designer collaborations like the Pulitzer line are important to Target, not because they add much to its $73 billion-a-year in sales - they barely make a dent in it - but because they are essential for the discount, mass merchandiser to be able to maintain its 'cheap/chic' cachet, and thereby attract affluent and middle-customers along with lower-income shoppers, and give them a reason to go visit Target instead of Walmart for everyday stuff," Wahba writes "In essence, those collections are what make Target Tar-zhay."

Target began debuting designer collaborations more than 15 years ago. Since then, the retailer has partnered with more than 150 designers. "People like the idea of designer fashion at an accessible price point," Allison Kaplan, senior editor of shopping and style for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine told MPR News. "It's democratizing something ... that seems out of reach."

Next Stop EBay

Of course, items are already being sold on eBay, CNBC reports. A Lilly Pulitzer for Target maxi dress in Nosie Posey sold for an original price of $34. One seller has placed that item on eBay with a starting bid set at $225, allowing consumers to "Buy It Now" for $325. While the "Buy It Now" price represents a markup more than nine times higher than the original tag, it's also nearly $140 more than a similar dress on, which sells for $188.
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