Months ago a grand announcement was made - The Lilly Pulitzer Company and the Target Corporation would be partnering up for a grand business venture. While the public was generally in favor of this colorful idea, there were those naysayers, of course, who believed that this partnership affected the exclusivity of the line. I would beg to differ and say that the "exclusivity" happened a few years back when the Lilly Pulitzer company went public. The line grew and stores began popping faster than Jiffy Pop on a hot stovetop. The brand began to expand and, while mostly, they tried to stick with the traditional, there were a few major guffaws. After attending The Angela Moore fashion show at The International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, a few years back I was rather horrified to see a model wearing a dress that looked like it had been specifically designed for Tanya Harding before the Nancy Kerrigan Incident. Yes, it was that bad.
But fashionistas, designers, celebrities and New England and Southern well to do Preppies do love this brand with it's bright and cheerful prints and colors. While I don't often don my Lilly dresses anymore, the colors and patterns make me smile. So, admittedly, I was rather excited when the announcement was made.
Target is, and always has been, brilliant with their marketing and advertising. Lilly always has fun, beautiful and often cheeky print ads. In terms of PR, no stone was left unturned, leaving some to wonder if this was just a big PR stunt after all.
I was excited but I certainly was not counting down the days, nor had I ever thought to show up in front of the store's entrance, to stand on line with the masses, before the doors opened. But somehow, I did. And this is how I got there.
We can blame insomnia. Sheer exhaustion had me in bed fairly early from a long, busy and productive week. After a couple of hours of sleep I found myself awake and unable to fall back to sleep, so I grabbed my laptop, noticed that it was the 19th - as in was April, 19th - "the" day. I decided to take a quick look to see if the website had gone live. It had not.
Now wide awake I hopped on over to Facebook where a friend wondered when the site would go live. I left a comment and my simple answer should have been just that, but instead I found myself engaged in a 3 hour hilarious and ridiculous conversation with 2 friends in South Carolina and Texas who also were all trying to get on to a site that kept crashing. Target certainly had not anticipated the sheer volume - though frankly I am surprised.
There were a few items I had been coveting. I wanted the beach towels, a few of the pillows, cushions and chairs for my daughter's room which is in dire need of a makeover. I perused the website "liked" the items I had hoped to get as I was told they would then be placed on hold for me.
My Facebook and Twitter feeds were beyond hilarious as frustrated Lilly lovers were starting to lose their cool. Others were simply along for the ride and somehow, the fact that no one could log on to Target's website - made the middle of the night hours that much more entertaining. By 3:30, I had to call it a night. I had a long and busy day ahead. No brightly colored tchotchke would replace my desire for sleep. But I slept restlessly that night as visions of Lilly items danced through my head.
3 hours later I found myself wide awake. Groggy but wide awake, I dragged my tired self to the kitchen to make some coffee. After the first few drops of caffeine trickled through my veins I decided I would head to Target at 8:00 when the doors opened. I had started this mad journey and now it seemed I should continue it. (But not crazy enough to get in line hours in advance!)
Meanwhile the website was still not working for me.
I left my house at 7:30 as I am about a 15 - 20 minute drive from the large, 2 story Target store at the Westfield Mall in Trumbull, Connecticut. I parked my car and decided to wait inside in the warmth of my car - there was a cool chill in the air. A line of about 50 deep had formed on the upstairs level. Down below was another line - I don't know how long that one was. After a few minutes I decided to get out into the chilly morning air and join the other, mostly women, on line and struck up a conversation with those near me. The line outside was calm and civil - as you would expect. It was about 7:45 and the doors were to open in 15 minutes.
A few minutes later a Target employee came out to talk to us, telling us to look for the signs with the pink flamingoes. The children's stuff was all downstairs and the women's, accessories and home furnishings were all upstairs - on our level. At exactly 8:00 the doors opened.
At the head of the line were mostly 20 somethings, young professionals perhaps, but I would venture to guess they were students from nearby Sacred Heart and Fairfield Universities. You would expect that these seemingly well mannered young preppies would behave themselves. They ran into the store, in a "these are the people of Walmart" kind of a way and headed to their destinations, not even stopping to grab shopping carts, and made a beeline for the apparel, pawing and grabbing at everything in front of them, arms filled with brightly colored merchandise, no matter what style or size. It was mayhem. I stood there, miffed, disappointed, jaw on the floor as these well dressed girls behaved nothing less than barbaric. There was nary a hanger left on the rods. It was 8:02 according to the clock on my iPhone.
The straw bags had been wiped out even before I had a chance to enter the store. There were a few wristlets and iPhone cases. I took 1 wristlet for my daughter. I had contemplated an iPhone case for her, but with inventory so low, I decided to save it for someone else.
Dumbfounded that the clothing had been mauled by a flock of blonde-haired vultures, even though I never wanted any, I headed over to the home accessories hoping to grab some of the cushions, towels and other items for my daughter. The metal shelves were almost wiped clean, I did manage to get a ceramic juicer and the picnic blanket that I had eyed online. And that was it. Word had it that there were only 6 of the chairs in the entire store. The display areas were tiny. I mean tiny. To say that inventory was limited would be a grave understatement. Perhaps it was done to control quality, something I know that is important to the Lilly Pulitzer brand. But this was beyond ridiculous. It was appalling. There was never enough to go around. Furthermore, stores should have had limits per customers. But they didn't and that is neither here or now. Some made out like bandits while some got nothing at all. Even more appalling is that items that were available for very reasonable prices were being sold on eBay for obscene amounts. And just like that the madness is over. Would I say it was a success? I suppose it all depends on what you view as successful and who you talk to. I think it was all very poorly handled, terribly disappointing and while I do believe that Lilly herself would have applauded the initial partnership with Target she would have been appalled by the outcome. But a true Lilly lover knows not to cry over spilt juice.