Why Selling Out So Quickly at Target Is So Good for Lilly Pulitzer

Collection was eagerly anticipated and didn't last long in most stores or online

Much to the chagrin of Lilly Pulitzer fans seeking a bargain, the designer's collection for Target, which launched yesterday, has nearly sold out. But while hopeful consumers may be miffed—Target's website was overwhelmed by the sudden rush, and long lines at stores left many empty-handed—the increased exposure and demand has boosted Lilly Pulitzer's brand and social media presence, according to marketing and branding experts.

Announced in January, the Lilly Pulitzer for Target collection was hotly anticipated.

"It's a pairing that consumers were eager to get their hands on," Target spokesman Joshua Thomas told Adweek. "Many of our stores did report that product has sold out or that it was sold out within minutes, so there was certainly a high degree of excitement around this [collaboration]." 

According to Jane Schoenborn, vp of creative communications and marketing for Lilly Pulitzer, the brand is "taken aback by the frenzy," and the collaboration has "helped increase Lilly Pulitzer brand awareness." 

"It looks like the new standard in successful product releases is whether or not consumers are willing to set their alarm clocks and get up in the middle of the night to buy marketers' wares," said Matt Conlin, president and co-founder of Fluent, Inc. "The side effect of this approach is people talking about these product releases in social media. Some people may be complaining about products being quickly sold out, or sites being down, but as the old saying goes, 'There's no such thing as bad press.'"

The social media buzz only serves to bolster both brands, particularly Lilly Pulitzer, marketing and branding experts agreed.

"Lilly Pulitzer, for their part, receives increased exposure and demand while the limited availability of this release ensures that the brand isn't diluted," said Conlin. "Interest for Lilly Pulitzer went crazy yesterday with their largest search day ever on Google. The people complaining the loudest on social networking are most likely the ones willing to wait overnight for the next chance." 

According to Roy DeYoung, senior vp of creative strategy for PM Digital, Lilly Pulitzer saw a 95 percent spike on Facebook in the last few days.

"History is the reason people lined up—they want the Lilly Pulitzer at a good price, and they know it'll be good, if not exceptional quality, with Target for the price point," said DeYoung. "But they also know it'll go fast. Target makes an event out of doing these deals and collaborations every couple of years, and to sell out like this, it's a circus." 

That pieces from the collection are being resold on eBay has many consumers upset. But, according to Thomas, the secondary market resale of the Lilly for Target collection currently is about 1.5 percent of the total collection.

"We're always disappointed to see when people buy product from Target and then try to resell that product for a profit," said Thomas. "This takes from the spirit of these programs and our goal of making great design available to everyone." 

For its next collaboration, Target should focus on improving the consumer experience, especially online, according to marketing and branding experts. 

"The systems that [Target] uses right now are not built to handle high volume," said David Bozin, vp of growth development at Bindo. "They underestimated what would happen, and they overestimated the capabilities of their platform. It's pretty outdated. What they have with Lilly Pulitzer is another example that they—excuse my French—don't have their shit together." 

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