Target is a victim of its own success.
The discount chain drummed up so much hype around its exclusive, limited-time line by upscale Italian designer Missoni that its website crashed and was down for most of the day 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 canceled. 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 bull's-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 Walmart. 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, a New York customer research firm that has an index showing that Target's image has taken a hit. "What was supposed to be engaging and delightful is now the opposite -- disappointment."
Morgan O'Murray, a spokeswoman, said Target experienced unprecedented demand for the collection and is working on correcting problems.
"This demand impacted our Target.com 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 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 re-create that success with the 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 say how much it spent on marketing, but it used social media websites and ads on TV and in Vogue magazine.
Target opened a temporary store in Manhattan at the start of New York Fashion Week on Sept. 8. On the night of the opening, Target hosted a party attended by Missoni-clad celebrities such as actress Elizabeth Olsen. The six-block store was supposed to stay open three days but closed after items sold out in six hours.