NEW YORK (AP) — Target is a victim of its own success.

The discounter drummed up so much hype around its exclusive, limited-time line by upscale Italian designer Missoni that its website crashed and was down most of the day on Sept. 13 when the collection was launched, angering customers. More than a week later, some shoppers who bought the Missoni for Target line are posting on social media websites Facebook and Twitter that they won’t shop at Target again because their online orders are being delayed — or worse, canceled — by the retailer.

Brielle deMartino, 23, from Del Ray Beach, Fla., was so excited that she woke up at 6 a.m. on the launch day and spent $700 on Missoni clothes, a bike and plates. The next day, she got an email from Target that her online order was cancelled. Then, she spent hours on the phone with Target customer service representatives she describes as unapologetic.

“I have never been treated like this,” says deMartino, who got the charges removed from her card after calling her bank and posted on Facebook and Twitter about the ordeal. “Instead of taking responsibility, they didn’t care. I have always been pro-Target, but I don’t want to give my money to a company like that again.’

Talk about having a bulls-eye on your back. Target became the discount industry’s darling by making it cool to buy stylish clothes and trendy decorations at the same place you pick up toothpaste and paper towels. But recently, it has suffered from similar public relations nightmares as its rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Earlier this year, Target had its first union election in what is seen as a precursor to more labor disputes nationwide. Now, customers are blasting Target on websites like Twitter at a time when Americans worried about the economy are easily being influenced by what their friends say on social media websites.

“This was badly handled,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., a New York customer research firm that has an index that shows Target’s image has taken a hit. “What was supposed to be engaging and delightful is now the opposite — disappointment.”

Morgan O’Murray, a Target spokeswoman, said the company experienced unprecedented demand for the collection and is working on correcting problems.

“This demand impacted our site and affected the shipment and delivery of select guest orders,” O’Murray said in a statement. “Providing an exceptional experience is incredibly important to Target, and we have a team dedicated to addressing those guests who have been affected.”

The crash heard around retail

The Missoni collection was an attempt by Target to regain the cache it lost among the fashion-forward crowd after it began focusing on expanding its food business. Target is among a few retailers who have partnered with high-end designers that create exclusive lines they can offer for a limited time at deep discounts. The collections can spur demand by creating a sense of urgency to buy. Last year, Target scored big with a line created by Liberty of London, offering 300 items with the designer, which is known for its floral prints, and selling out of most of it in a couple of days.

The retailer tried to recreate that success with Missoni line, which featured stationery for $2.99 up to $599.99 patio furniture at a fraction of the cost of the designer’s original works that can go for $595 to $1,500 and more. Target declined to comment say how much it spent on marketing, but it used social media websites and ads on TV and in Vogue magazine.

Target also opened a temporary store in Manhattan at the start of New York Fashion Week on Sept. 8. On the night of the store’s opening, Target hosted a party attended by Missoni-clad celebrities like actress Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the twin actresses Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen. The temporary store, which spanned six blocks, was supposed to stay open three days, but closed after items sold out in six hours.

By Sept. 13, the day of the launch, Target said demand for Missoni items rivaled the frenzy on the day after Thanksgiving, which is typically the busiest shopping day of the year. More than 100 customers lined up at stores nationwide. Some locations sold out in a few hours.

Celebrities were even writing about the launch, or tweeting, on Twitter. Actress Busy Phillips, who plays Laura in ABC’s “Cougar Town,” tweeted: “Got the bike. Not the colorful one but still SO EXCITED.” Actresses Jessica Alba and Jessica Simpson also were gushing about the line: “I dreamt about the Missoni 4 Target bike last night,” Alba tweeted. Simpson replied, “I want that bike too!! So cute!”

The buzz turned to frustration for some shoppers. About two hours after the 6 a.m. launch, many on Target’s website came face-to-face with Target’s mascot bulldog and the disappointing news: “Woof! We are suddenly extremely popular. You may not be able to access our site momentarily due to unusually high traffic. Please stay here and we’ll try to get you in as soon as we can!”

This happened throughout the day. Some who were patient got through. Those who weren’t left the website disappointed.

Ben Rushlo, director of performance management at Keynote Systems Inc., which tracks websites’ performance, said that he couldn’t remember the last time a site stayed down most of the day. He said usually, a website slowly deteriorates throughout the day — with minor glitches becoming more prevalent — before crashing.

“It wasn’t your normal meltdown,” he said.

The Missoni mess gets messier

Even some customers who got through complained that items disappeared from their online shopping carts. Some were unable to checkout. Those who were able to buy breathed a sigh of relief, with some hocking their buys on for more than double Target’s prices.

But the celebration was short-lived for some. Twitter and Facebook are abuzz with customers complaining that they got emails from Target notifying them that their orders will be delayed or canceled altogether. The posts range from mild (“I’m waiting for orders and now get an email that some may not ship,” to prickly (“Every time I see someone with Missoni for Target I get a little more mad.”).

Megan Bonner, 26, from Memphis, Tenn., bragged on Twitter after ordering $300 worth of Missoni dresses and cardigans until the next day when she got emails telling her that her shipments would be delayed. Nervous that she wouldn’t get the items at all, she bought some of them at a nearby Target. But now she worries she won’t be refunded for the other merchandise.

“I feel violated. I feel taken advantage of,” she said. “If I don’t hear back from them in another week, I will call back. Maybe, I just won’t go back anymore.”

Target had planned to sell the line into October online and at all 1,700 U.S. stores. But many locations are sold out and the online pickings website are slim. Target had said it was replenishing merchandise, but that it would trickle in.

The debacle comes at a precarious time for Target. The chain, which has struggled to return to its pre-recession growth, is just beginning to benefit from its expanded grocery business and a 5 percent discount it gives shoppers who pay with a Target credit or debit card.

Target Corp., based in Minneapolis, had been posting disappointing revenue gains, but it had a 3.9 percent second-quarter increase in revenue at stores opened at least a year — a measure of a retailer’s health. That compares with a 2 percent first-quarter gain.

Analysts disagree on whether Target’s image can rebound from the snafu, which comes just months after a failed measure to unionize by employees at a Valley Stream, N.Y. spurred organizers to target stores nationwide.

C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group said in order for Target to recover, it needs to placate angry customers by, say, offering $10 to $20 gift cards. “A lot of companies don’t want to fix the problem,” he said. “They feel it’s better to let it go away. But the problem is that’s a dangerous strategy.”

Passikoff, with Brand Keys, says the damage is already done — and he can prove it. He said the negative publicity has pushed down Target’s reading on the company’s Loyalty Index, which measures brand reputation, among other things, to 109 from 119 in August. Brands should have at least a 116, Passikoff says, and anything under 100 signals “trouble.”

But Brian Sozzi, a Wall Street Strategies analyst, says shoppers’ discontent — much like the Missoni for Target line — is fleeting. “I think it is short-term anger,” he said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (24)
  1. Brian says:

    Any consumer with an IQ over 50 should have seen this coming. If I REALLY want a hot item, I’m not going to wake up in my jammies and go online to get it, because any idiot knows the odds are virtually nil. These products moved like hot cakes, and the people who had sense enough to get their arses out of bed and stand in line at the stores are now reaping the benefits. THEY saw what was coming and did something about it. Don’t blame Target because YOU’RE a lazy slob who didn’t take the time to go out and get what you (and everyone else) wanted.

    1. Annie says:

      Exactly. Not only that, but I love the idea of the customer who gets on their soap box and shouts about how they’ll never spend another dime at Target because of this “injustice.” It’s that little bit of arrogance in society where everyone THINKS they’re a bigger deal than they actually are. You think Target cares about losing you as a customer? Even you who spends $500 every month there (of which, I’m certain, there aren’t many). Good for you. Go spend your money at Wal Mart and promote a company that gives NOTHING to it’s employees or the community.

    2. Brandon says:

      Yeah, I kind of agree with this. Not as meanly or as rudely, but still… it’s like ordering tickets to a concert; you have a 1 minute window to get in for high demand items and that’s it. If it gets cancelled, such is. It’s not the best thing to wake up to a cancelled order, but it happens and… life moves on.

    3. Jon Woll says:

      To add to that, Target just went live (stepping away from Amazon) with a new website that has seen a number of issues. The media only over blows this problem thinking it’s purely a Missoni problem. Honestly I think because some media chicky didn’t get her travel bag now she’s out to prove a point. Live and learn. Right on Brian – good post

    4. Alistair Charleston says:

      Funny all you lowlifes scrambling for a piece of class from a no class organization like Target. I hope Target goes under in the next FY or sooner…CHEERIO!

      1. me says:

        Unbelievable…wish a company unwell so that we can add even more unemployed people to the ranks.. You know what??? It’s people like you who deserve to be unemployed…those that would wish a company go under..remember it’s not just the people at the top that work for these corps.. There are plenty of people in the stores also who make peanuts, that you are wishing unemployment on because of your sarcasitc wish for a company to go under.

  2. Dizzy Dave says:

    Keep in mind, people, that Target is a corporation. Sure, words like “customer service” and “friendly” and “hometown company” sound really nice and make us fell all warm and fuzzy. This, in turn, makes us want to spend our hard-earned money there. And not to say that Target doesn’t care about customer service, because I believe they do. But the main objective of a corporation is to what? Make money! The alligiance of any smart corporation is to it’s stockholders, not the customer. As a stockholder, I LOVE the way this line flew off the shelves. Thanks to all who purchased!

    1. yes sir says:

      Not like your stock is showing any gains because of it…

  3. kate says:

    To buy into the hype that this is product that is so important to have. The draw that is only available for a limited time. Is it something you would want if it were always avail? Is it that important to be first, at what price and what does it give you? Especially if you look back in a few months.

  4. Awwwww!! says:

    Can’t get your stuff? Jeepers, that is so sad!!

    Boo, hoo, hoo!! Poor little babes.

  5. Barb says:

    Hey, either keep shopping at Target for good quality ” stuff “, or go shopping
    at Walmart for their ” junk.”

  6. Jon Woll says:

    C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group said in order for Target to recover, it needs to placate angry customers by, say, offering $10 to $20 gift cards.

    You don’t placate customers freely and willingly, you have to be asked for it. Because someone didn’t get something doesn’t mean you just hand them something. Didn’t we learn anything from rewarding children with trophies just for participating. What is this entitlement you expect for not getting what you wanted and missed out on? You want $20 for being put out? Ask for it. But, for God’s sake do NOT expect it to be just offered up.

    1. Expectations says:

      This isn’t about people not getting their stuff. This is about people who have bought and paid for items, and then their orders were cancelled on them. If you went into a store and they said they had something in stock, took your money but then said, “oh, no we don’t.” and cancelled your order, would you not be angry? I would. It’s called customer service. Something America has forgotten about.

      So many in this thread seem to highlight a problem we have and that’s “Take it all and whoever’s not willing to bludgeon the other for it is a loser.” At least that’s what I get from most of these comments. Sad really.

      Personally, though, I don’t see the rationality behind a run on goods like this, but people have the right to spend their money on whatever they want with the expectation that if someone says they have an item and paid for it, they should get it.

      1. me says:

        I’ve had many retailiers as well as rental agencies and other areas of business who have cancelled on me…Tuff damn peanuts, as long as you get your money back who cares. I would be more upset if they lost their money but…they didn’t. Go find some other ugly geometric design from a designer and get over it. Target is a great company, with integrity. They don’t have ESP, on how well or fast something will sell out.

  7. Susan says:

    What is the big deal, Target on Fridley had all sorts of this junk in there yesterday, get in your car and go to the store.

  8. Sue says:

    Go to the Target in Cottage Grove, there is plenty of these ugly garments left there.

  9. The supply is limited, duh! says:

    It is a limited-time only line. This means, quantities are likely also limited. When people order hundreds (thousands) of dollars of the suff, then compain because there isn’t enough inventory, they’re just being idiots. It’s not infinite, it’s finite. Buy purchasing in large quantities, they’re causing the problem themselves. Stop being so freaking greedy and order only a few items.

    Not to mention the fact that it’s ugly.

  10. tonkahlm says:

    Hmm, just wondering how many people will come across this trumped up “limited edition” stuff shoved away in some corner of their basement one day, right next to all the Beanie Babies…

  11. djp says:

    I don’t think the Missoni stuff is anything to get out of bed for! What is the hype all about??

  12. Happy Taget Shopper says:

    I love Target and will always shop there. People that are bad mouthing Target should get over themselves.

  13. Pam says:

    Really? This poor woman is so upset she will never spend another dime at Target? Why does our society think it is now so entitled to everything by getting up “early” and logging on to the internet to buy it with a credit card? Anyone who thinks doing this entitles them to anything is lacking common sense and is lazy. Three words: Get Over It!

  14. Maria Joy Malay says:

    For everyone who doesn’t know what Missoni is or why people went so crazy to get it: Missoni is a high quality, high fashion line started in Italy in the 1950s. The chevron style knit line is their iconic look and has been for generations. It’s normally very, very expensive because of the high quality materials used, like any other premium designer brand. The products made for Target are made in China, not Italy and certainly do not carry the quality standard of true Missoni goods. People treated this as if they were purchasing true Missoni goods at affordable, even cheap, prices. This was nothing more than an opportunity to acheive the style and get the look. The products are cool, but they are almost like approved and branded knock-offs. I would have purchased a scarf or pair of shoes if I had the opportunity because they are an affordable and cute accessory, but one greedy woman at the Eden Prairie Target had 3 carts loaded and wouldn’t let anyone near her hoard. Disgusting!

    1. RRRR says:

      I think it’s ugly! who looks good in ziz zag? NOBODY!

  15. Jaime says:

    From now on, I’m going to assume that anyone wearing this junk is PATHETIC and DISGUSTING.

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