Lilly Pulitzer For Target Pop-up shop

The blowout success of the 250-piece Pulitzer collection stirred scores of complaints after everything almost sold out almost immediately after it launched Sunday.

Lilly Pulitzer brought the good and the bad for Target.

This story first appeared in the April 21, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The retailer’s shares rose 1.1 percent on Monday to close at $80.93 — but the blowout success of the 250-piece Pulitzer collection stirred scores of complaints after everything almost sold out almost immediately after it launched Sunday.

There were claims by consumers frustrated that they couldn’t log onto Target’s Web site that the site had crashed, but the retailer contended it was simply “regulating” traffic.

“At no point did the site crash,” a Target spokesman said Monday. “If you weren’t allowed into the site, it was because we were managing traffic. It could have been for as long as four consecutive hours. But at no point did Target lose control of the site.

“Many of our stores had lines forming early Sunday morning,” the Target spokesman said. “Product has been selling quickly, with some stores selling out entirely in just a few minutes.”

As of Monday, “Lilly Pulitzer for Target is virtually sold out,” the spokesman said.

This isn’t the first time that Target hasn’t had enough supply when faced with overwhelming demand for a collection. In 2011, extreme consumer demand for Missoni for Target caused the Web site to crash. That collection featured 400 items across many categories.

On Monday was prominently featuring Lilly Pulitzer for Target on the home page with a button to “Shop the collection” — even though there was virtually nothing to buy.

“The team is working to remove the Lilly boutique page from our landing page,” the spokesman said. “There isn’t product readily available. The boutique will still stay up because we have a 14-day return policy” and returns may make some more products available. “The Lilly experience will live within the Web site, but not on the home page.”

Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, said Lilly Pulitzer may have given Target some of its former “Tarzhay” prowess. “Over the last six or eight years, Target lost its way in terms of style and fashion at low cost,” said Johnson. “Lilly Pulitzer for Target delivered on both points. It will allow Target to reclaim the mantle of low-cost style and fashion and newness.”

But Johnson noted that Target could have done a better job of calibrating consumers’ expectations. “You can take preorders for future delivery,” he said. “If demand goes off the charts and you have a flexible enough supply chain, you can replenish.”

Johnson said that Lilly Pulitzer for Target could add fractionally to the retailer’s quarterly comps. “Maybe a half a point plus or minus,” he said. The collection could have helped spur incremental sales with consumers shopping for Lilly Pulitzer for Target picking up a second or third item. On the other hand, shoppers who went to a store only to find the collection sold out could have been annoyed and left empty-handed.

“We will not be replenishing product on or in Target stores. The collection is limited-edition and available only while supplies last,” the Target spokesman said.

Target has been heavily promoting Lilly Pulitzer for Target for months via social media. The retailer on Thursday unveiled a pop-up shop at Bryant Park in Manhattan, where lines reached 42nd Street from the pop-up location at the Bryant Park Grill, near 41st Street. Target turned the entire park into a slice of Palm Beach with pink umbrellas, brightly colored hammocks and beach chairs and a juice bar.