Missoni for Target line sells out, raises questions

Sept. 15, 2011 | by James Bickers

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.

"... 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!

Topics: Consumer Behavior, Department Stores, Marketing, Retail - Apparel



James Bickers
James Bickers is the former senior editor of Retail Customer Experience, and also manages webinars for Networld Media Group. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist and innovative content strategist, with publication credits in national, international and regional publications. wwwView James Bickers's profile on LinkedIn

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