Long before the day came, I had my strategy ready. I wouldn’t go to a Target store near the center of Cincinnati, I wouldn’t get any preconceived notions about what I might find, and I wouldn’t go crazy if the demand for the items exceeded the probability of me buying something.
Lilly Pulitzer, you see, deserved at least this kind of decorum from me.
Since the announcement earlier this year about the brand’s collaboration with Target, anticipation for the line has been building to a fever pitch. Lilly already had a loyal, devoted following of fans who have worn the timeless pieces for decades. Target also had a following (Tar-Jay, anyone) of bargain hunters who love the store for its high end looks on a budget.
A marriage of two wonderful things. Post AM rush, though, I’m not sure either realized the power of the mix they had brewed for all of these months.
First, the Target’s website crashed overnight. It went down and went down hard, leaving online shoppers in search of elusive exclusives desperate for a mainframe that would reliably refresh. They got disappointed, and then turned angry. I’ve seen this happen at least five times before during Lilly’s once-a-year online anniversary blowout. Try to shop the website and you’re in the minority if you get all of the items through without a dozen or more tries.
Second, Lilly has a devoted following for sure, but let’s be honest here about the fact that it’s not always a budget friendly love affair. A sundress can run $200 or higher, and while I’ve never been disappointed about a purchase, I do have to think a few times before I buy a dress. It takes a lot of consideration and is never an impulse purchase for me. Lilly dresses must fit into my life in more ways than one for me to click “purchase”, and I know I’m not the only Lilly devotee who feels this way.
In short, the idea of a Lilly sanctioned item at a deep discount just couldn’t be resisted by about half of the female population–particularly those women on the East Coast and in Southern states.
Let me go off on a tangent here about why I like this brand. It literally reminds me of my very favorite place in the world: Palm Beach. My husband and I started vacationing there in 2011, and we’ve gone ever since–as much as we possibly can. We fell in love with that island, and it’s hard to explain why. Something about the old glamour of the place, along with the high-end food, expansive beaches, and 325 days of sun just lured us in and made us addicted. More than once, when it’s gray and cold in Cincinnati during the dead of winter, we’ve had a mournful “when can we go to Palm Beach?” conversation. I even wrote a book about the place because I love it so very much.
Once you go, you get it.
Before I started vacationing there, LP just meant an expensive brand of women’s clothes to wear at garden parties and wedding shower brunches. Ever since 2011, though, it has meant so much more to me. When I’m sad or need a getaway, I throw on one of the brand’s sundresses and get that instant reminder of sunny, happy, carefree times.
Call me sentimental.
And so, I found myself at about 6:30 AM driving to a far-flung Target I considered “off the beaten path” in the Cincinnati area. When I arrived, coffee in hand, I found three other ladies waiting at the door. We talked some. More people arrived. Then more. And more. And still more.
About 50 people waited in line for the store to open when it did one minute after 8AM. And almost immediate stampede ensued, with people running, some pushing, and more than a few snatching every item they could find. I did NOT do that. I wasn’t buying Lilly for the sake of Lilly, friends. I just wanted a few items. I had been hopeful for some of the pants, but that particular store didn’t carry them. I did, however, wind up with a pair of gold sandals, a set of the glasses, and some other odds and ends.
I’m happy. My bank account is happier.
I didn’t blow the budget because frankly, there was almost no stock to blow it on. The store had no more Lilly by 8:15AM, and much of it sold out faster than that. Dresses, for example, sold out in New York (or should I say Palm Beach?) minute. Scarves disappeared like gold. Handbags blew past me like they were sample sale Louis Vuitton bags at the Paris flagship. Some people bought items they knew didn’t fit them. Some people just bought items for the sake of reselling them. Others, like me, just stared at the items we could find and tried to decide if they worked for us.
It was weird. I don’t do Black Friday. I guess this is what it feels like.
I heard, and saw, plenty of proof that I’d made a good choice when it came to locations. A few friends tried to shop in Targets closer to the center of town and reported lines longer than any Christmas sale, with crowds of 250 and more hungry for pieces of this collection. I wouldn’t have been able to handle that. I would have probably just left.
I don’t know if the brands meant to do this–if Target and Lilly hoped demand would exceed stock, but if they did, they got it. Before the collection arrived, I saw plenty tweets and posts from people who didn’t think this would be a good idea, people who said a collaboration with Target would degrade a line beloved by legends like Jackie Kennedy.
I don’t think that’s what happened on Sunday. Lilly’s just about as exclusive as she always was, and now Lilly for Target is, too.