NEW YORK — Target is a victim of its own success.
The discounter drummed up so much hype around its exclusive, limited-time line by upscale Italian designer Missoni that its website crashed and was down 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, of Del Ray Beach 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 e-mail from Target that her online order was cancelled. Then she spent hours on the phone with Target customer service representatives she describes as unapologetic.
"I have never been treated like this," said 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."
"This was badly handled," said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, a New York customer research firm whose index shows Target's image has taken a hit. "What was supposed to be engaging and delightful is now the opposite — disappointment."
Morgan O'Murray, a Target spokeswoman, said the company experienced unprecedented demand for the collection and is working on correcting problems.
The Missoni collection was an attempt by Target to regain the cachet it lost among the fashion-forward crowd after it began focusing on expanding its food business. Target is among a few retailers that have partnered with high-end designers who create exclusive lines they can offer for a limited time at deep discounts.
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 by the designer, which is known for its floral prints, and selling out of most in a couple of days.
The retailer tried to re-create that success with the Missoni line. By Sept. 13, the day of the launch, Target said demand for Missoni items rivaled the frenzy on the day after Thanksgiving. Customers lined up at stores nationwide. Some locations sold out in a few hours.
The buzz turned to frustration for some shoppers. About two hours after the 6 a.m. launch, many on Target's website came face to face with the store's mascot bulldog and the disappointing news: "Woof! We are suddenly extremely popular. You may not be able to access our site momentarily due to unusually high traffic. Please stay here and we'll try to get you in as soon as we can!"
This happened throughout the day. Some who were patient got through. Those who weren't left the website disappointed.
Even some customers who got through complained that items disappeared from their online shopping carts. Some were unable to check out.
Those who were able to buy breathed a sigh of relief, with some hawking their purchases on eBay.com for more than double Target's prices.
Analysts disagree on whether Target's image can rebound from the mess. C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, said that for Target to recover, it needs to placate angry customers by, say, offering $10 to $20 gift cards. "A lot of companies don't want to fix the problem," he said. "They feel it's better to let it go away. But the problem is, that's a dangerous strategy."
However, Brian Sozzi, a Wall Street Strategies analyst, says shoppers' discontent — much like the Missoni for Target line — is fleeting. "I think it is short-term anger," he said.