What a difference a sex makes. Target announced its collaboration with Lilly Pulitzer back in January even though the line won't be released until April 19. Since then, video promos for the iconic women's line are running regularly.

Compare that to the men's collection that Target released online Sunday, March 15. The 90-piece collection got no "heads up" in Target's Sunday circular. Online, the dominant ad is the  "spring home sale," not the new men's collection.

"We kept it low key," said Target spokeswoman Jessica Carlson. "This program is a new twist on the traditional designer collaboration. It's a test and learn."

Six collections are included: Billykirk travel bags and accessories, Owen & Fred soaps and accessories, Locally Grown t-shirts and caps from Iowa, Terrapin stationery, Taylor Stitch slacks and shirts, and Minnesota-based Duluth Pack overnight and messenger bags.

Target analyst Leon Nicholas, senior vice-president at Kantar Retail, said it's surprising to see Target go after men's style after focusing so much on women. "The men's department at Target is mostly Champion, Merona, a few ties and Father's Day trinkets," he said.

 It's part of an ongoing effort to move to higher prices and higher profit margin items, Nicholas said. "If we lose penetration, let's double down on where the money is," he said of Target's strategy.

Prices on most pieces are on the high side for a discounter, including a $36 tee from Locally Grown, Taylor Stitch pants for $98, and a bar of vegan soap with cedar tray for $16 (oddly out of stock already). The highest-priced item is a Duluth Pack bag for $270.

Instead of traditional advertising, the company is using more social media channels to appeal to the Millennial audience. The items are higher-priced but made in the U.S., a feature that Carlson said is often more appealing to male shoppers.

The collection will be available online through mid-summer. Some pieces from Billykirk will be made available in 130 stores, including some in the Twin Cities. Most but not all of the items are Target exclusives.

Nicholas expects the collection to be moderately successful for Target. "It's a good platform for what Millennial men will buy and at what price point," he said.



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