Lilly Pulitzer x Target Collab: A Success for Pulitzer, Not So Much for Target

Yesterday’s debut of the Lilly Pulitzer collaboration with Target was an unadulterated sales success. But was it a brand-building win for both partners?

Customers lined up outside stores in the wee hours of the morning to grab items from the collection, which included women’s and girls’ apparel, footwear and accessories, as well as home and beauty products. Shoppers also flocked to the Target website to nab merchandise featuring exclusive floral prints created by Lilly Pulitzer designers — so many that they reportedly crashed the site.

There was so much consumer demand, in fact, that the limited-edition collection is looking to be more limited than expected. A Target spokesperson told FN’s sister publication, WWD, “Many of our stores had lines forming early Sunday morning. Product has been selling quickly, with some stores selling out entirely in just a few minutes. We will not be replenishing product on target.com or in Target stores.”

For those who missed the launch event, at least 20,000 items from the collab are already showing up on eBay, with prices that are two to three times higher than at Target.

That kind of behavior isn’t sitting well with the public. Many people have taken to Twitter to rant about greedy shoppers reselling merchandise. Even more have posted complaints about Target’s mishandling of the big debut. In response, Target tweeted a (sort of) apology for problems with its e-commerce site:

Hampton Bridwell, CEO of brand consulting firm Tenet Partners, observed that Target executed the launch poorly by not providing adequate access to products in stores and online. “And they didn’t do a good job of limiting purchases, so now things are ending up on eBay,” he said. “If you’re a loyal Target fan, you didn’t get a chance to have your day. That’s created this backlash on social media.”

He suggested that the company should have anticipated demand and communicated better with shoppers, especially in light of the firm’s recent online security issues. “Target has had a lot of reputation problems lately with its credit card breach, so this speaks to their ability to execute as a company and set expectations properly,” said Bridwell. “Coming off the corporate problems, this might add to the negativity. They have to be really careful how they handle this.”

Bridwell also cautioned that future Target collaborators might think twice about working with the retailer if it is unable to pull off a smooth launch. (The company also had issues with its 2011 Missoni x Target collab.)

Fashion label Lilly Pulitzer could see some benefit from the team-up, though. The label, previously best known as a staple for Miami high society, has said that it aimed to use the partnership to reach a new audience — and now it certainly has major brand recognition with a mass audience. Better yet, it’s now considered a label in high demand.

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