A few weeks ago, America was treated to an Italian invasion in the form of Missoni for Target, a special limited edition line of bikes, luggage, clothes and housewares in partnership with the design-centric retailer. Target heavily promoted this campaign with this ad:
Weeks before the launch, fashion and design lovers marked the launch date in their iPhones – but it seems they weren’t the only ones.
Because when Missoni for Target launched on September 13th (not coincidentally, during New York Fashion Week), the response was not just overwhelming – it was pure chaos. So many consumers visited Target.com that the site actually crashed! In fact, if you went there in the hopes of purchasing multicolored hand towels and pretty throw pillows, here’s what you found instead:
What the what? Doesn’t Target welcome millions of visitors to its site every day? Aren’t they equipped for this sort of thing? Seems the big box retailer was also taken off guard by all the hoopla, so much so that Joshua Thomas, a Target spokeman, the Associated Press that, “This is unprecedented.”
So why the big run on Missoni? Well, as one who is admittedly addicted to the Flash Sale (e.g., sites like Rue La La, Gilt Groupe, One Kings Lane and The Mini Social that offer new sales of designer products at the same time every day), I understand the allure of getting limited edition items by high fashion labels at a fraction of the cost. Heck, a few years ago I practically clawed a woman to death for a Karl Lagerfeld for H&M dress that STILL hangs in my closet, tags dangling from taffeta, and I am on a first-name basis with my UPS guy thanks to the steady stream of packages from these sites that arrives at my door (I’m equally as familiar with the employee at my local package shop who handles all of my returns). And I have a friend whose office has a rule of not scheduling meetings at or around 12 noon, at the risk of missing out on Gilt Groupe’s daily sales.
The attraction of the Flash Sale has everything to do with the “thrill of the kill.” It’s the same reason I first got addicted to eBay: you’re not simply buying an item, you’re winning it! (You can imagine how well this rationale went over with my husband.) But the truth is, these sites can get you into a lot of trouble – which is why it’s interesting to note that they became popular in the years since the 2008 financial crisis. Does purchasing a small, somewhat accessible item at a fraction of the cost make us forget that we are still spending money?
This sector has been growing by leaps and bounds – by mid-2011, there were around 100 flash sale web sites – which would support the fact that people love the thrill of the kill. In a way, Target can be credited with introducing the concept of the “limited edition sale”: they introduced the “Design for All” program in 1999, with their first collaboration with architect Michael Graves, and have featured several of these sales a year every since, including the Missoni sale. I confess, in recent months I’ve curbed my spending on these flash sale sights, namely because it’s expensive to have a toddler…which is why I did NOT have Missoni for Target on my radar. So when I went to the Target site the day AFTER the sale (unlike most people, I hadn’t marked my calendar), I discovered that nearly 90% of the merchandise was sold out. Feeling like I’d missed a major cultural moment, I immediately went to eBay, where I found hundreds of listings for Missoni for Target towels, clothing and accessories. But right before clicking the “Buy it Now” button, I took a step back and asked myself, “Do you REALLY need this?” And then I walked away, never to look back at all those stripes. Besides, there’s always a new, and therefore better, flash sale or signature collection coming right around the bend.