Target’s Missoni ‘Mayhem’

The fashion blogosphere have been overrun with complaints about how Target botched the launch of its latest and exclusive limited-time collection, Missoni for Target. And shoppers across the nation have taken to Facebook, Twitter and other sites to share their frustrations. The folks who seem to be the most put-out are those that ordered goods online. After experiencing long delays and going through any number of hurdles before they were even able to place an order, many are now being told that their orders will be delayed or, even worse, cancelled.

Target hasn’t said much beyond that it seriously underestimated demand for the Missoni collection. (I have to admit, I was taken aback by all the frenzy surrounding the Missoni-branded goods. When did the venerable Missoni house become hot?) But the fact is the retailer hyped the collection big time, with a brilliant marketing campaign that capitalized on social media and also included an attention-getting pop-up in Manhattan and a perfectly timed debut (Fashion Week).

In many ways, Target was the victim of its own success. The Missoni campaign — and the demand it helped generate — reflected the prowess of the chain’s marketing engine. But its marketing success came with a price, from empty store shelves to disgruntled online shoppers to the grumblings of industry techies who question whether the retailer’s revamped website is up to meeting heavy consumer demand.

Target hasn’t said much about its plans going forward for the Missoni collection, which was scheduled to run until Oct. 22. A check of my local Target (in suburban New Jersey) on the Saturday after the launch turned up nothing except a couple of shower curtains and a few other miscellaneous items. When I asked an associate if the goods would be restocked, she replied “We hope so, but we really don’t know.”

I disagree with those who say that the Missoni fiasco will put a dent in Target’s brand image long term. In fact, I don’t think it will even turn off many consumers in the short term. Shoppers, especially the fashionista types that this collection attracted, have short memories. Style usually wins out — even over poor service. And yes, there are important supply chain and technology lessons to be learned here. But there is also a more basic lesson: When you have the right product at the right price, shoppers will open their wallets — even in an uncertain economy.

PS: For an interesting take on Missoni for Target from a supply chain perspective, click here.

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