By  on September 13, 2011

Target’s Web site crashed under the weight of demand for the Missoni for Target collection, which bowed online at around 6 a.m. Eastern Time Tuesday.

A short time later, visitors to the site saw an image of the Target mascot bull terrier dressed in a repairman’s uniform. “Woof,” the site said. “We are suddenly extremely popular. Please stay here and we’ll try to get you in as soon as we can!”

At about 10:30 a.m., the site was reportedly back up, but then crashed again. Visitors who managed to use the site during operable periods found that many items were sold out. “Due to an overwhelming amount of traffic to target.com, as a result of the Missoni for Target launch, our Web site has been inaccessible throughout portions of the day,” said a Target Corp. spokeswoman. “Target.com is seeing greater item demand than we do on a typical Black Friday and the excitement for this limited-time designer collection is unprecedented. We are slowly bringing the site back online to ensure we can provide a positive shopping experience to our guests.”

Buzz has been building for Missoni for Target for some time. Target’s Style Facebook page chronicled the line’s every development from the ad campaign to Marina, the blogger hired by Target to follow the Missoni launch during fashion week. Marina turned out to be a 25-foot robo doll dressed in head-to-toe Missoni. Four handlers walked her to high-profile locations during the week, where she was a larger-than-life billboard for the collection.

Target on Sept. 7 unveiled a Missoni for Target pop-up shop at 42nd Street and Avenue of the Americas. At a press event that evening, editors and celebrity guests stripped the store bare. Merchandise was replenished for Sept. 8 and Fashion’s Night Out, but didn’t last long. As crowds lined 42nd Street from the pop-up shop to Times Square, shoppers inside asked sales associates to strip clothes off mannequins. One of the most expensive items, a bicycle, priced at $399.99, sold out of all 158 units.

The pop-up store was scheduled to remain open through Saturday, but closed early Friday due to lack of inventory.

“Clearly [Target] underestimated the demand for the product,” said Matthew Nemer, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities. “Target did a really good job in terms of the p.r., but what now? What’s the staying power of the launch? Did Missoni shoppers buy items from other departments in the store?” Nemer asked. “If the answer is yes, then it’s a great strategy. How much of a halo will this provide for the overall brand and store? For the near term it should help. It will be interesting to see how much of this product is already on eBay.”

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