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Peter Kramer  /  AP
Elizabeth Olsen attends the Missoni For Target event in New York. Now, more than a week later, some shoppers who bought the Missoni By Target line say they’ll never shop at the retailer again.
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updated 9/22/2011 9:38:25 AM ET 2011-09-22T13:38:25

Target is a victim of its own success.

The discounter drummed up so much hype around its exclusive, limited-time line by upscale Italian designer Missoni that its website crashed and was down most of the day on Sept. 13 when the collection was launched, angering customers. More than a week later, some shoppers who bought the Missoni for Target line are posting on social media websites Facebook and Twitter that they won't shop at Target again because their online orders are being delayed — or worse, canceled — by the retailer.

Brielle deMartino, 23, from Del Ray Beach, Fla., was so excited that she woke up at 6 a.m. on the launch day and spent $700 on Missoni clothes, a bike and plates. The next day, she got an email from Target that her online order was cancelled. Then, she spent hours on the phone with Target customer service representatives who she describes as unapologetic.

"I have never been treated like this," says deMartino, who got the charges removed from her card after calling her bank and posted on Facebook and Twitter about the ordeal. "Instead of taking responsibility, they didn't care. I have always been pro-Target, but I don't want to give my money to a company like that again.'

Talk about having a bulls-eye on your back. Target became the discount industry's darling by making it cool to buy stylish clothes and trendy decorations at the same place you pick up toothpaste and paper towels. But recently, it has suffered from similar public relations nightmares as its rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Earlier this year, Target had its first union election in what is seen as a precursor to more labor disputes nationwide. Now, customers are blasting Target on websites like Twitter at a time when Americans worried about the economy are easily being influenced by what their friends say on social media websites.

"This was badly handled," said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., a New York customer research firm that has an index that shows Target's image has taken a hit. "What was supposed to be engaging and delightful is now the opposite — disappointment."

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Morgan O'Murray, a Target spokeswoman, said the company experienced unprecedented demand for the collection and is working on correcting problems.

"This demand impacted our Target.com site and affected the shipment and delivery of select guest orders," O'Murray said in a statement. "Providing an exceptional experience is incredibly important to Target, and we have a team dedicated to addressing those guests who have been affected."

The crash heard around retail
The Missoni collection was an attempt by Target to regain the cache it lost among the fashion-forward crowd after it began focusing on expanding its food business. Target is among a few retailers who have partnered with high-end designers that create exclusive lines they can offer for a limited time at deep discounts. The collections can spur demand by creating a sense of urgency to buy. Last year, Target scored big with a line created by Liberty of London, offering 300 items with the designer, which is known for its floral prints, and selling out of most of it in a couple of days.

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The retailer tried to recreate that success with Missoni line, which featured stationery for $2.99 up to $599.99 patio furniture at a fraction of the cost of the designer's original works that can go for $595 to $1,500. Target declined to comment say how much it spent on marketing, but it used social media websites and ads on TV and in Vogue magazine.

Target also opened a temporary store in Manhattan at the start of New York Fashion Week on Sept. 8. On the night of the store's opening, Target hosted a party attended by Missoni-clad celebrities like actress Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the twin actresses Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen. The temporary store, which spanned six blocks, was supposed to stay open three days, but closed after items sold out in six hours.

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By Sept. 13, the day of the launch, Target said demand for Missoni items rivaled the frenzy on the day after Thanksgiving, which is typically the busiest shopping day of the year. More than 100 customers lined up at stores nationwide. Some locations sold out in a few hours.

Celebrities were even writing about the launch, or tweeting, on Twitter. Actress Busy Phillips, who plays Laura in ABC's "Cougar Town," tweeted: "Got the bike. Not the colorful one but still SO EXCITED." Actresses Jessica Alba and Jessica Simpson also were gushing about the line: "I dreamt about the Missoni 4 Target bike last night," Alba tweeted. Simpson replied, "I want that bike too!! So cute!"

The buzz turned to frustration for some shoppers. About two hours after the 6 a.m. launch, many on Target's website came face-to-face with Target's mascot bulldog and the disappointing news: "Woof! We are suddenly extremely popular. You may not be able to access our site momentarily due to unusually high traffic. Please stay here and we'll try to get you in as soon as we can!"

This happened throughout the day. Some who were patient got through. Those who weren't left the website disappointed.

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Ben Rushlo, director of performance management at Keynote Systems Inc., which tracks websites' performance, said that he couldn't remember the last time a site stayed down most of the day. He said usually, a website slowly deteriorates throughout the day — with minor glitches becoming more prevalent — before crashing.

"It wasn't your normal meltdown," he said.

The Missoni mess gets messier
Even some customers who got through complained that items disappeared from their online shopping carts. Some were unable to checkout. Those who were able to buy breathed a sigh of relief, with some hocking their buys on eBay.com for more than double Target's prices.

But the celebration was short-lived for some. Twitter and Facebook are abuzz with customers complaining that they got emails from Target notifying them that their orders will be delayed or canceled altogether. The posts range from mild ("I'm waiting for orders and now get an email that some may not ship," to prickly ("Every time I see someone with Missoni for Target I get a little more mad.").

Megan Bonner, 26, from Memphis, Tenn., bragged on Twitter after ordering $300 worth of Missoni dresses and cardigans until the next day when she got emails telling her that her shipments would be delayed. Nervous that she wouldn't get the items at all, she bought some of them at a nearby Target. But now she worries she won't be refunded for the other merchandise.

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"I feel violated. I feel taken advantage of," she said. "If I don't hear back from them in another week, I will call back. Maybe, I just won't go back anymore."

Target had planned to sell the line into October online and at all 1,700 U.S. stores. But many locations are sold out and the online pickings website are slim. Target had said it was replenishing merchandise, but that it would trickle in.

The debacle comes at a precarious time for Target. The chain, which has struggled to return to its pre-recession growth, is just beginning to benefit from its expanded grocery business and a 5 percent discount it gives shoppers who pay with a Target credit or debit card.

Target Corp., based in Minneapolis, had been posting disappointing revenue gains, but it had a 3.9 percent second-quarter increase in revenue at stores opened at least a year — a measure of a retailer's health. That compares with a 2 percent first-quarter gain.

Missoni impossible? Customer demand melts Target site

Analysts disagree on whether Target's image can rebound from the snafu, which comes just months after a failed measure to unionize by employees at a Valley Stream, N.Y. spurred organizers to target stores nationwide.

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C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group said in order for Target to recover, it needs to placate angry customers by, say, offering $10 to $20 gift cards. "A lot of companies don't want to fix the problem," he said. "They feel it's better to let it go away. But the problem is that's a dangerous strategy."

Passikoff, with Brand Keys, says the damage is already done — and he can prove it. He said the negative publicity has pushed down Target's reading on the company's Loyalty Index, which measures brand reputation, among other things, to 109 from 119 in August. Brands should have at least a 116, Passikoff says, and anything under 100 signals "trouble."

But Brian Sozzi, a Wall Street Strategies analyst, says shoppers' discontent — much like the Missoni for Target line — is fleeting. "I think it is short-term anger," he said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Missed Missoni? Keep checking Target stores, exec says

  1. Closed captioning of: Missed Missoni? Keep checking Target stores, exec says

    >>> back now at 8:10, you've heard of black friday, well it was missoni madness for target on tuesday. the retailer partnered with the a legendary fashion house , to introduce a limited edition of appar apparel, accessories and home goods, and the item line was so popular, it quickly sold out at many stores and caused the company's website to crash. the company's vice president of communication is with us, a i long with "today" and " us weekly " contributor jill martin and angela kiley. i want to start with you, dusty. did you have any idea that this would be so popular, such that your entire website crashed?

    >> well, good morning, savannah. i think it's probably safe to say that target is having a missoni for target moment. we actually knew coming into it that there was a tremendous amount of buzz, it was featured in more than 40 magazines over the last month. and the online traffic has been simply incredible. whether it was people tweeting about bicycles or talking about the luggage, everyone wanted a little piece of la dolce vita .

    >> the question, dusty, is whether you have any stock left. are you going to replenish it?

    >> what i would say is sha inventories were based on previous designer collections and this was our largest collection to date. so your comparison to black friday is a good one. i think people came in, they shopped early. we had lines outside of our store, starting at the wee hours and people were logging on. so items will continue to trickle into stores. i would encourage people who are interested in still purchasing missoni for target, to check their target stores early and often.

    >> dusty. hold on a minute. i want to ask jill martin in new york, how do you explain this phenomenon? target has done these designer lines before. but i can't remember something like this.

    >> well, it's never been like this. and everyone was buzzing about it. celebrities to everyone in our office. because i think you see this on the red carpet . and everyone knows it when they see it. you see the zig-zag, the colors, the prints. so i think for most, it's unattainable, because it's $600, to $12,000. and then they made most items under $40. so you can get your hands on it, and even people who can afford the real thing, celebrities are tweeting about it. because you just want one piece.

    >> everybody loves a bargain. angela , i have to ask you, they did a pop-up store in new york. put the merchandise in and i guess you were first in line because you got all this stuff. what was the scene like?

    >> it was missoni mayhem. i actually had to wait four hours, a little more than four hours to even get to the front of the line. the line snaked around the whole avenue, other side streets . by the time i got in, the whole second floor was roped off. they ran out of merchandise up there. what few things were left, people were just grabbing, putting into their bags, boxes, whatever they could get their hands on.

    >> i should point out, that you, angela are wearing a missoni for target item.

    >> i am.

    >> jill , you are wearing the real designer high-end line. in terms of quality, jill , what is the difference? because in terms of looks, it's very similar.

    >> right, i mean natural fiber , synthetic material. obviously better quality dress. however they did not compromise the design. downstairs everyone was saying, which is the real, which is the fake. because when you look at them, i mean they really look fantastic.

    >> dusty. i have to ask you, i mean you can't be unhappy with all of this good press for target and all the excitement about the line. some people might look at this and say, well, wait a minute. should you have had more in stock? is this basically a publicity stunt? albeit one that appears to be working?

    >> well, the response has just really been unprecedented. it's incredible. you mentioned the pop-up store earlier. we actually doubled our inventory for that pop-up store. we hope to be open three days, we shut down in just six hours. so it truly is mayhem. people are really excited about this collection, because i think it's beautiful and it's at a great price. and if you didn't catch it this time, just wait. target always has something great in store.

    >> all right. dusty, she can't lose that opportunity. all right, jill martin, angela kiley, our producer, and dusty jenkins at target. appreciate it.

Photos: 5 fall trends you'll wear into the spring

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  1. 5 fall trends you'll wear into the spring

    By Bobbie Thomas

    Although most of us have yet to wear new favorites for this fall, the Spring 2012 shows just wrapped up here at New York Fashion week. And while Heidi Klum’s catch phrase “One minute you are in, and the next you are out!” may come to mind, there’s a glam silver lining. I’ve taken note of the looks we’ll be seeing again in the new year, so you can invest wisely now:

    Be bold
    The colorblocking trend that's all over stores this year continues to be a statement-maker for spring, with bold stripes and vibrant color on the runways at BCBG Max Azria, Tommy Hilfiger and others. The punchy pinks, bright corals, and neon-like yellows that turned up the volume on the runways could easily be worn this winter with black, browns, and caramel. Then come next year, lighten them up with white and beige.

    Neon Lace Mini, $82.33, Asos.com (AP, asos) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Go long

    Midi-length skirts, dresses and airy maxis flowed down the runways of Derek Lam, DKNY, Jason Wu and many more with hemlines of every kind – asymmetrical, scoop, handkerchief and slits have all been seen at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. So the longer lengths you’ve seen all summer and in stores this fall will be wise investments. Keep warm by pairing these ladylike styles with boots and textured tights and keep cool come spring by pairing with wedges or a simple flat.

    Box Pleated Hi Low, $58, Needsupply.com (Getty Images/Need Supply Co.) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Love leather

    Forget the clunky coats of decades past – recent runways have shown sleek leather dresses and cute, cropped jackets. A slim pencil skirt in black or rust leather is also great buy; it can complement a soft sweater or tie neck blouse for the office and can be worn with a dainty tee or top for a fresh, seasonless style.

    Leather Front Tee, $100, Topshop.com (Getty Images/TOPSHOP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Prints and patterns

    The fall runways were full of mixed motifs. Navajo met geometric, animal print paired up with stripes, graphics even met with polka dots. The clash of designs were seen again, and lots of digital prints were shown. Designers such as Prabal Gurung, Cynthia Rowley, and Alexander Wang paraded "look-at-me"-printed prints down the catwalk. Consider what’s already in your closet or pick up some bold pieces, so you can start experimenting now to perfect your favorite combos.

    Snakeskin Print Blazer, $79.99, Zara.com (Getty Images/ZARA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Tribal motifs

    Tribal motifs popped up on fall runways and again in the Spring 2012 collections. The earthy ethnic looks are a great year round way to mix in a bit of bohemian chic. For just a hint, pick up a statement necklace or handbag, pair with black for a little edge, or go for head-to-toe with a dress.

    Flutter Sleeve Printed Chiffon Trim Handkerchief Hem, $34.99, Macys.com (Getty Images/Macy's) Back to slideshow navigation
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