Lilly Pulitzer's iconic Palm Beach-influenced maxi-dresses have created a maximum amount of buzz for Target (TGT), as well spurred a barrage of complaints from frustrated customers clamoring to get their hands on the retailer's new fashion line.
The collection of shift dresses and floral-covered clothing from the iconic designer sold out at many stores within minutes after going on sale Sunday, while a surge in online shoppers caused its website to slowdown and, at times, become inaccessible, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The allure of Lilly Pulitzer's clothing, which carries the candy-colored chic of an expensive beach vacation, proved that Target can still get customers excited about its designer partnerships, which have helped it set itself apart from rivals such as Walmart (WMT).
But the fact that customers who were lusting after shifts described as "effortless and fun" were turned away empty-handed left some with a decidedly un-fun sour taste in their mouths.
"I am actually upset about not being able to get any Lilly Pulitzer from Target," one customer wrote on Twitter on Monday morning. "There should have been some limit on what you could buy."
While some shoppers were turned away without purchasing any pineapple-print shifts, investors were pleased with the demand, sending Target's shares up as much as 1.4 percent in early trading on Monday.
Unhappy shoppers probably won't have a chance to buy Target's Lilly Pulitzer line, given that the company wrote in a tweet on Monday, "We do not anticipate more items becoming available unless they are returned by other guests." It said in another tweet that the collection was only available for a "limited time."
Spokesman Joshua Thomas told the Star-Tribune that it was sorry that some shoppers were left empty-handed. "We share their disappointment with the experience of shopping online. It doesn't match what we aim to provide them, which is an easy, seamless, consistent experience," he said.
Although the clothing line had already received attention on social media by the time it went on sale this weekend, the huge surge in buying caught some by surprise. Some customers claimed that buyers were snapping up items to resell later. The 250-item line was so popular with online buyers that Target took its website offline for about 20 minutes on Sunday, The Wall Street Journal said. After only about three hours, the line was almost sold out online. Some stores sold out within 30 minutes.
Part of the appeal of Target's Lilly Pulitzer line is its pricing. The "Lilly Pulitzer for Target Women's Shift Dress in My Fans" sold for $38, only a fraction of the $198 price tag for a similar shift sold directly from Lilly Pulitzer's own site.
Regardless, the hullaballoo over Target's sold-out line may signal a return of "Tar-zhay," the faux-French pronunciation of the name that denotes the retailer's mix of high-end design and low prices. Some critics had complained Target's product mix had become uninspired in recent years, failing to sell items that would get consumers excited to shop there. The company is also rebuilding its brand loyalty after a massive data breach that exposed the credit card information of millions of customers.
Given the cachet and excitement about Target's Lilly Pulitzer line, it's clear the retailer is striking the right pink-and-orange tones to get shoppers once again excited. It would be even better if the company had enough product to keep customers from turning away with empty hands.