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Target website, stores overwhelmed by demand for Lilly Pulitzer


New York -- The launch of Target Corp.'s hotly awaited Lilly Pulitzer collection on Sunday caused a shopping frenzy, both in stores and online. It also provoked a firestorm of criticism on social media from shoppers and Lilly fans, who found themselves shut out of being able to buy product, in some cases, minutes after the line became available.

In Target stores, the demand for the limited-time Lilly Pulitzer collection was so heavy that racks and shelves were stripped bare within minutes. There were reports of lines wrapped around stores in the early dawn.

Online, the company's website struggled to keep up with overwhelming traffic, and shoppers were frustrated with long waits and other issues.

While the Target site was plagued with problems, the retailer said it did not, contrary to some reports, crash. At one point, Target made the site inaccessible for about 15 to 20 minutes as it struggled to deal with the traffic. According to the Star Tribune, Target had teams working around the clock at its Minneapolis headquarters and in Bangalore, India, to help manage the event. By mid-morning, nearly everything in the 250-piece collection was sold out online, and pieces were already showing up on eBay.

The retailer does not plan to replenish the collection.

Target had not given an exact time in advance of when the collection would drop online. But the retailer had hoped to make it available online by about 3 a.m. CST, the Star Tribune said, but it was delayed until 6 a.m. EST due to the heavy traffic. The line sold out so quickly that many shoppers who had been waiting online for hours did not get to buy anything. (Some items, however, in the collection became available starting around midnight on Target’s mobile site. Word spread and shoppers in the know quickly bought up the merchandise. )

Starting in pre-dawn and continuing throughout the morning, the retailer used Twitter to give updates to shoppers. At around 3 a.m. it tweeted:

“Due to the overwhelming excitement for the #LillyforTarget collection we are making adjustments to our website. Stay tuned for updates.”

Customers also used Twitter, mostly to express frustration and disappointment with the retailer.

"@Target next time either 1) don't promote something that most people will never see or 2) significantly increase production #whatafiasco"

The frenzy recalled Target’s 2011 launch of its Missoni limited-edition line. Back then, the extreme demand caused the retailer’s website to crash.

Many experts viewed the incident as a wake up call for Target to improve its online capabilities. Target had been working to do so ever since. The retailer recently told analysts that it planned to spend $1 billion on digital this year.

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