Target has been selling an exclusive line of "Stranger Things" merchandise with items such as shirts that say, "What would Barb do?" But the one thing missing from its collection has been that one thing that went viral: the purple "Thunder Lizard" hoodie.
The Minneapolis-based retailer is rectifying that situation in a partnership with the Science Museum of Minnesota, whose world was turned upside down when the shirt it briefly produced in the mid-1980s made a surprising appearance on the second season of the Netflix hit series.
Rushing to capitalize on the moment, the museum hustled to reproduce the shirt and has sold more than 30,000 of them since November. In addition to the science museum's name, the hoodies features a picture of a brontosaurus skeleton.
Target will sell the unisex hoodie (in sizes XS thru XXL) in about 1,400 of its 1,800 stores starting later this month. It will not, however, be sold on Target.com.
Kim Ramsden, a spokeswoman for the Science Museum of Minnesota, said the sweatshirts sold by Target will be virtually identical to the ones the museum has been selling except for the inside tag which will say Target on it. A portion of the proceeds will go back to the museum and its education programs.
"We're thrilled because it's a way to continue to support the mission of the museum by seeing more 'Thunder Lizard' apparel out there and boost awareness of the museum across the country," she said. "We're grateful for the partnership. They're a Minnesota company and we're a Minnesota museum."
At the same time, the science museum will continue to sell its line of "Thunder Lizard" apparel in its gift shop and on the website it created late last year to sell the items.
As the science musem began exploring the idea of reproducing the shirts back in October, Ramsden said Target was one of the entities the museum initially reached out to for advice in how to sell it online since the museum didn't have an e-commerce site and to feel out if it made sense to do a partnership. She added that Target is already a big supporter of its education programs and has had some executives sit on its board in the past.
The museum decided to do it on its own, reaching out to a printer in Wisconsin to put the design on purple sweatshirts and set up an e-commerce site for the "Thunder Lizard" line through Shopify. The demand for the shirts was so great that the website crashed the first day they went on sale.
The initial craze has died down now. But the museum still sells about 8 to 10 shirts a day online, with about a third of the orders coming from abroad.
The shirts have pulled in about $1 million in sales, roughly equivalent to a whole year's worth of revenue from its gift shop where it sells things like science experiment kits, jewelry, stuffed dinosaurs, rock candy and astronaut ice cream.
The proceeds from the shirts, which amount to about $500,000, are being directed to the museum's education programs. Given the big influx of funds, the museum is exploring some ideas for adding new programs, Ramsden said.
The museum is also trying to figure out if the explosion of interest in the purple dino hoodies has translated to an uptick in visitors.
"Having those 30,000 hoodies all across the world are walking billboards for us," she added.
In the meantime, in addition to the dino sweatshirts, Target will also be launching more "Stranger Things" related merchandise in coming weeks.