Target is adding a new twist to the launch this weekend of its design collaboration with Victoria Beckham, who rose to fame in the 1990s as a member of the Spice Girls.
The retailer has sent about 500 of its Redcard-carrying customers invitations for them and a friend to attend prelaunch events on Saturday night at five stores around the country, including the Nicollet Mall store next to Target’s headquarters in downtown Minneapolis. Those shoppers will get first dibs on Beckham’s women’s and girls’ collection for Target, but will be limited to six items apiece to ensure there’s enough inventory left when it goes on sale to the general public the next morning.
The events, executives say, are a way to treat their best customers and build on the strength of Target’s highly anticipated, limited-time partnerships. Target is also looking at ways to enhance its loyalty programs and bring more value to its Redcard program beyond the 5 percent off discount and free shipping card holders already enjoy.
“This is just a pebble in the pond,” said Mark Tritton, Target’s chief merchandising officer, said of the prelaunch events. “We’ll see what the ripples are and what we can learn. Any way we can bring joy to our guests and reward them, we want to continue to investigate.”
Target is also testing other enhancements to its loyalty offerings such as a program called Cartwheel Perks in which customers receive points for every dollar spent at Target and then they become eligible for various freebies once they reach a certain number of points. Target began piloting that program in four markets last fall.
The designer collaborations have become signature moments for Target, with industry watchers paying close attention to whether they inspire a shopping frenzy like the Lilly Pulitzer partnership did two years ago or more of a shoulder shrug as the Marimekko collection did last year.
Each one, Tritton said, has its own flavor, so there is no one-size-fits-all formula.
The prelaunch events for the Beckham collection will have an English flair, featuring tea carts and cookies. And, of course, the background music will include upbeat tunes from Beckham’s Spice Girls days, bringing a little extra “zig-a-zig-ah” to the festivities.
The parties make sense, especially since they are built around one of the most anticipated shopping events at Target every year, said Amy Koo, an analyst with Kantar Retail.
“It’s smart if they’re targeting people who are shopping that category the most — the ones who will be the most enthused about the collection,” she said.
In addition to being Redcard holders, customers invited to the prelaunch shopping events live close to the five stores and often shop in Target’s women’s and kids’ clothing departments. The stores selected to host the events, other than its store in TriBeCa in New York City which opened last fall, are among the top stores in sales for Target’s past designer collaborations. The other stores hosting the events are in West Hollywood, Calif., Houston and Miami.
The events’ timing will vary, with a few starting at 6 p.m. while the stores are still open and others after they close at 11 p.m. or midnight. This way Target can see what time might be best for future events.
Customers who shop the events will also receive a 30 percent off coupon to use in Target’s Easter shop that can be used that evening or the following day.
The in-store parties are another way that Target is trying to draw shoppers to stores even as online shopping becomes more popular. Whereas online sales make up less than 5 percent of Target’s overall sales, about half of the sales from its recent design partnerships have been online.
Since the Beckham collection has created quite a bit of buzz in her native England, and other parts of the world where Beckham is well known, some pieces of the Target collection also will be available for sale to international customers through Beckham’s website.
Target executives shy away from predicting how fast a collection will sell out, if at all. They say the partnerships don’t move the needle in terms of overall sales numbers. Instead, they are seen as marketing vehicles to create excitement and anticipation.
By that measure, the Beckham collection has already done well, Tritton said.
“We’re tracking it and the buzz actually surpasses Lilly at this point,” he said of the media coverage, social media impressions and other metrics compared to its Lilly Pulitzer collection in 2015 that sold out of stores and nearly crashed its website.
“If you think about Victoria, what she brings to the partnership, she has got such a strength of her design credentials, she’s known in popular culture from her pop past, as well as her current status as a mom and style icon,” Tritton said. “There are so many great elements to it.”
Indeed, Beckam is one of the biggest celebrities Target has partnered with for such a collection. Many of its previous collections have been with up-and-coming designers or upscale design houses that may not be household names.
This also will be Target’s first design collaboration where it carries plus sizes in stores. Only select stores will get that assortment, but the larger sizes will also be available online. Target has faced blowback in the past for not offering plus sizes with these partnerships or only carrying those sizes online.
Last weekend, Beckham and Target hosted a V.I.P. garden party in Los Angeles to celebrate the upcoming launch. The party was a celebrity-studded event. Guests were also able to shop the collection early and take items home.