Target admits Lilly Pulitzer line was supposed to have lasted weeks

April 21, 2015, 7:02 PM UTC

Target (TGT) was the victim of its own success.

The web site snafus and quick sell-outs of its line of Lilly Pulitzer beachwear on Sunday showed how the discount retailer still has the magic touch when it comes to design collaborations, even as they earned Target a lot of brickbats on social media from shoppers stymied by’s fail.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Target’s chief merchandising and supply chain officer Kathee Tesija said that the company, which clearly underestimated demand despite weeks of tracking social media, had planned to offer the 250-item limited-time, limited-supply collection for weeks. Instead, the collaboration lasted mere hours.

Target intended to begin selling the collection sometime after midnight on Sunday, but kept postponing the start so it could cope with overwhelming Black Friday-like web traffic. By mid morning Sunday, the Lilly Pulitzer merchandise was largely sold out and some pieces started to appear on eBay (EBAY) at multiples of their Target prices, arousing the ire of countless fashionistas looking for chic stuff on the cheap.

“The experience guests had on early Sunday morning wasn’t acceptable. It’s as simple as that,” Tesija, one of Target’s highest ranking executives, said in a blog post. “We didn’t get there with this launch and for that, we’re sorry.”

The retailer is looking into why the web site, into to which it has invested heavily to update, underperformed.

Most of these designer collaborations are expected to sell out, and typically do, though in a matter of a few weeks. They create buzz and are a way to get new shoppers to come to Target, a benefit the retailer was deprived of given the unintentionally short duration of the Lilly Pulitzer event.

Compounding the frustration of the company and its customers is that resale sites such as eBay (EBAY) became the only option, short of buying the regular, luxury Lilly Pulitzer merchandise at full price, for many shoppers. Target is not replenishing its Lilly Pulitzer inventory since it was meant to be a limited collection.

“When we see product that we’ve created for our guests being resold on the secondary market for a profit, it’s disheartening because it takes away from the very intent of these programs,” Tesija said.

By her estimates though, only 1.5% of the merchandise ended up on resale sites.
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