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Sorting fact from fiction with Missoni launch

Widespread reports surrounding the launch of the Missoni for Target brand last week had surging demand causing the company’s website to crash and stores disappointing customers because they prematurely ran out of merchandise. The unexpected run on Missoni even prompted the company to take the unusual step of issuing a public statement.

“The nationwide launch of Missoni for Target on Sept. 13 was met by unprecedented demand, both in our stores and online at Target.com,” the company said. “This demand impacted our Target.com site and affected the shipment and delivery of select guest orders. Providing an exceptional guest experience is incredibly important to Target, and we have a team dedicated to addressing those guests who have been affected.”

Making sense of the situation is tricky because Target is so good at generating buzz for designer exclusives by selectively sharing information with key media outlets and online influencers to create a sense of anticipation for the limited duration offerings.

Still, it would seem the company could have come a little closer by making a bigger inventory bet that would have come through a more thorough understanding of how powerfully the Missoni brand was going to resonate with style and value conscious shoppers. The Manhattan pop-up store that was supposed to be open for three days reportedly sold out in six hours, which should never happen, even if the goal was to create urgency and exclusivity through intentionally tight quantities.

The bottom line when it comes to designer exclusives is that accurately forecasting demand is virtually impossible considering the varying degree of brand equity among designers. A designer with a limited track record and minimal name recognition makes demand forecasting more challenging and maybe conservative inventory levels are warranted.

However, in the case of Missoni, Target knew last year’s Liberty of London exclusive was a smash hit with shoppers, and the Missoni agreement was an even more extensive offering so determining optimal order quantities should have been more precise. In addition, accuracy should have benefited from advanced shopper insights and social media monitoring techniques that Target presumably employs to gauge how people are going to react based on direct feedback and digital conversations.

Just how big a hit Missoni was with shoppers will become apparent in early October when September monthly sales are reported and insight into the performance of the women’s apparel category is offered relative to the company’s overall expectation for same-store sales in the low to mid single digits. 

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