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Missoni for Target line sells out, raises questions

Head to Bloomingdale's or Saks Fifth Avenue on any given day and you can purchase a cardigan from the legendary Italian fashion house Missoni for around $600, or a pair of heels for around $300. If you went to Target this past Tuesday, or shopped the retailer's e-commerce site, you could have purchased comparable items in the "Missoni for Target" line, with average prices of $40 and $30, respectively.

Lots of people did just that — some of them waiting in line outside the stores hours before they opened — and the result was a complete website crash, a manic rush for the shelves and a nearly completely sold-out inventory. Now, the question remains whether the admittedly odd pairing of the two brands has produced a net positive result for Target, or a swarm of customer ill-will.

"Missoni is so luxury driven, this is a huge deal," said Mary O'Brien, a New York fashionista who formerly worked at Bloomingdale's and now sells luxury apparel online. "Many people do not understand why a brand as exclusive as Missoni would ever even consider doing a line with Target."

Founded in 1953, Missoni knitwear is known for its distinctively colorful, zig-zag and geometric patterns. The company has also diversified over the years into carpet, perfumes and tapestries.

The partnership was announced earlier this year, with Target using the interim months to build excitement via blogs, social media, print and TV advertising and an appearance at New York Fashion Week. Giovanna Dimperio, advertising executive and sartorialist, said the retailer's buzz-building was amazingly effective.

"Target's PR team did a fantastic job generating buzz and getting placements," she said. "I believe about a month ago I learned the exact date it would be available, and marked my calendar."

Plenty of other people did too, evidently: By 7:47 am the target.com site was down, a courtesy message from the Target dog letting visitors know "we are suddenly extremely popular." From coast to coast, shoppers reported empty shelves as soon as a few minutes after the doors opened.


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"... literally snatched Missoni items out of each other's carts."

Shoppers waiting to buy Missoni products at Target
Lines form outside a San Diego Target, 30 minutes before opening.
(Photo by Susie Yoo.)

The fact that these products were in the "Missoni for Target" line and not the "real" Missoni line — they are admittedly lower in quality and are mass-produced, O'Brien said — wasn't enough to prevent shoppers from getting them, and a lot of them, at any cost.

In San Diego, lines started forming at 7:30, a half-hour before the store opened. Shopper Susie Yoo said she "watched in amused horror as grown women name-called and literally snatched Missoni items out of each other's carts" when the doors were opened. The store sold out of the items within 20 minutes, she said.

Heather Adessa had a similar experience at a New York location. She arrived at the store an hour and a half after it opened, and although the Missoni shelves were bare, many of the shoppers were still in the aisles with their loot.

"People were wheeling around carts with 5 pieces of the Missoni Luggage, 5 comforter sets, 10 pillows," she said. "It was insane. Then a group of women with carts and carts of products each gathered near the registers and were dividing up the products amongst each other. The Target employees sat there and saw them and didn't say anything."

"I was very lucky not to get trampled," said Amy Halloran, a self-professed "proud Missoni owner" in Chicago. "I have never in my life witnessed grown women acting so aggressive. I saw several women with small babies in their cart full of Missoni product who left their cart (and child) and ran toward a Target employee bringing out more shoes."

The online experience was a frustration for many, too. Jewelry designer Ann Marie Sclafani said she bought around $300 worth of product during the "one-hour blip that it was working." She got an email later in the day with expected ship dates. The next day, she got word that three of the items she bought are not available for the estimated ship date and she would not be charged until they were on the way. "However, I was already charged for the entire order," she said. "It was a total failure on so many levels as a consumer."

The Target website was back up by Wednesday morning, but most Missoni products are listed as "out of stock."

Lifestyle blogger Stacy Geisinger sums it up bluntly: "Target failed," she said. "Their website crashed. So much promotion and not enough product. They could have made a fortune. Instead they have many disappointed customers."

Geisinger said the racks at her New York Target were empty by 10 o'clock, and that people "just took as much as they could grab. The store was filled with so many disappointed women."

Retail Customer Experience blogger AnnaMaria Turano posits that while the partnership might have generated dollars and buzz for Target, it could "prove to be disastrous for Missoni's brand."

"Now that the expensive knitwear's iconic images are within the reach of the mass audience, Missoni may unfortunately experience backlash from their consumers who were loyal to the brand pre-Target," she writes in her latest post. "These Missoni loyalists might stop shopping and might stop wearing Missoni if they are concerned that others might confuse the boutique offerings with the made-for-Target line."

Geisinger also speculates that most of the shoppers were snapping up the product with the intention of reselling it online, and she may be right: As of this writing, the number of listings for Missoni for Target products on eBay is around 44,000 and rising by the minute.

Target did not respond to our request for comment.

What do you think? How should Target have handled this launch differently? Talk about it in the comments!

Related Content

User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Michelle Rich
    81400181
    I got my on line order in on 9/13 by 6:20 am CT and 2 items out of 6 are now delayed for delivery for up to 35 days... the other 4 items have been delayed for up to 13 days. Initial order deliver was by 9/20. I'm very upset.
  • James Bickers
    80993578
    Target has issued this brief statement on the matter:

    "The nationwide launch of Missoni for Target on Sept. 13 was met by unprecedented demand, both in our stores and online at Target.com. This demand impacted our Target.com site and affected the shipment and delivery of select guest orders. Providing an exceptional guest experience is incredibly important to Target, and we have a team dedicated to addressing those guests who have been affected." (http://pressroom.target.com/pr/news/target-statement-regarding-missoni-Sept2011.aspx)
  • Jessica Ober
    80865698
    Target online has a past of terrible customer service and experiences. This isn't a new thing and I think their statement falls short of the truth, "Providing an exceptional guest experience is incredibly important to Target." Obviously if that were true they would have listened to the many customer complaints online that have been posted prior to the Missoni ordeal.

    Here's a link to three years of customer complaints about Target:
    http://www.consumeraffairs.com/retail/target_online.html

    I used to love Target. I liked that they had affordable, designer made, and "pretty" products. However, when I placed an order online for a comforter I was one of the many disappointed customers. First when I ordered I paid for 3-5 day shipping, but the order wouldn't be ready to ship for up to 28 days! There was no indication if this product was in stock or not. I decided to wait, I wasn't really in a rush... Then one month later I got and email stating it was going to take longer than expected to ship (no really?). I still thought I'd wait to see how it panned out, mostly due to curiosity. Then about a month later they canceled my order since they were not able to locate any other comforters in stock. THAT IS TERRIBLE! You would think a company like Target would have some sort of reliable inventory system.

    I'm already boycotting Walmart, I think I might have to boycott Target too.
  • Cathy Burrell
    79760315
    Good Grief! What is this madness all about? People waiting in line to snatch up items that they intend to see later on e-bay? How much are they going to make? I can't believe that 40 thousand people thought this was a smart strategy. As for Target 'failing'...I believe they succeeded in creating a huge buzz, and by getting the Missoni label, even briefly. Missoni, on the other hand...I don't understand what their marketing strategy was, and how it will strengthen their brand. With the Target price points...how could they have made any money? This may be a clear case of getting what you paid for...for Target,Missoni,and the customer.
  • Childrens Collections
    55571559
    As a resale shop owner since 1989, looking at the Knit dresses, consumers didn't even notice flaws in the finished product for Target.. So now you know why they were sold at Target....As a Buyer, as items arrived, in Our shops, These were things we looked at Before items were displayed in our shops..If not up to our standards, they were returned to Manufacture..I sure Target employees would not be trained to look at fabrics, or flaws...Good deals...
  • ryan smith
    42708639
    "Many people do not understand why a brand as exclusive as Missoni would ever even consider doing a line with Target."

    Here is why. Scale makes money.

    1000 pairs of shoes at $300 is $300k in revenue at a 50% margin is $150k in profit.

    50,0000 pairs of shoes at $30 is $1.2 Million in revenue at 30% margin is $400k in profit.
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