The Minneapolis-based retailer avoided a repeat of last fall's designer debacle.
Target Corp.'s debut of its limited-edition Jason Wu collection went relatively smoothly Sunday and Monday, especially compared with its chaotic Missoni launch last fall.
There were no hours-long website outages or thousands of customers flooding Twitter and Facebook with angry diatribes.
"We're really proud with how the website performed," said Target spokesman Joshua Thomas.
But shoppers continued to grumble about website glitches and the scarcity of Jason Wu clothing, made worse by opportunistic consumers who snatched up designer merchandise at Target stores only to sell it at much higher prices on eBay.
Still, it was a victory of sorts for the Minneapolis-based retailer, which absorbed a vicious public relations beating last September when the newly revamped Target.com crashed for several hours following the debut of its much-hyped Missoni collection. In the following weeks, customers also griped about delayed shipments, canceled orders, spotty customer service and payment snafus.
Target fared better with Jason Wu for a number of reasons. Unlike Missoni, which launched at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday, the retailer rolled out the collection a little after midnight on a Sunday, allowing it more breathing room to accept online orders.
The 50-piece Jason Wu collection of dresses and skirts was much smaller than 400-piece Missoni assortment, which included clothing, scarves, towels, even a bike. Jason Wu also was only available in 1,200 stores compared with all of Target's 1,700+ stores for Missoni.
Target also made some adjustments after last fall's debacle. Even though it was Target's largest-ever limited edition, the Missoni merchandise sold out within hours. Target tried to better forecast demand this time, Thomas said.
"We have a better understanding of how the retail landscape has changed," Thomas said, noting that its trademark design partnerships have morphed into "shopping moments." As a result, Target is trying to urge customers to shop earlier with these collections, he said.
In addition, the company decided to offer a "limited amount" of additional Jason Wu merchandise on Target.com later this week. The retailer, however, will not replenish its stores with additional products, except for returns.
That's a shame, said Carol Spieckerman, president of newmarketbuilders, a retail management consulting firm.
Spieckerman says she understands Target's need to balance demand with its central strategy of keeping its limited assortments "special and coveted." But offering some new merchandise online but not in stores only confuses shoppers at a time when retailers are trying to create a more consistent experience between websites and physical locations, she said.
Spieckerman thinks Target could still satisfy customers and maintain the collection's aura of scarcity by offering one more rollout of fresh merchandise within a week or so of Jason Wu's debut. Such a strategy could also help solve Target's problems with opportunistic hoarders, she said.
Like Missoni, some people are buying up Jason Wu merchandise in Target stores and reselling online. Thomas said those actions are "disappointing" and defeat the purpose of offering affordable, high fashion clothing to everyone.
The company, however, declined to limit in-store purchases. Instead, Target tested a two-item limit on sizes and styles shoppers could buy on Target.com.
Thomas said the retailer is still crunching the data and has not determined whether it will make any additional changes in the future.
Thomas Lee • 612-673-4113