On July 12, Target will Launch Eddie Borgo for Target, a designer collaboration featuring customizable accessories “inspired by 1960s and 1970s craft culture.” Months post a Lilly Pulitzer partnership persuading customers to purchase a “styled” look, Borgo keeps Target’s diffusion strategy fresh with individual creativity as it’s core. Customers buy Borgo’s boho-bases, like a purse or wallet, then make them anything-but-basic with charms, studs, and totem bars in materials like resin, brass mesh, and chains. Target’s blockbuster collaborations fill customer needs’ for easy-bought-exclusivity, growing as mid priced lines are either moving up-in-price or out altogether. But, whether a quieter collaboration will quantifiably benefit Target’s cheap-chic personality is not-so-certain.
It’s smart to shake-up-the strategy. If exclusivity is the USP, it can’t be oversaturated. However, in stretches between super-sized collaborations, such as: Liberty of London, Missoni, and Lilly for Target, the store can’t maintain it’s momentum. Cases like Neiman Marcus and Peter Pilotto put customers to question “has Target lost their steam?” Core categories’ sales stale when “style” isn’t attached to Target.
Sure, the company’s setbacks were cause of controversy: credit breaches, Canada stores closing, company layoffs, and designer copying. But, yet-to-break buzz about Lilly for Target proves apparel strategies can save sales. Writers were quick to cry “overreliance” as reasons for Target’s less-successful partnerships. With retailers from Kohl’s to H&M collaborating with fashion greats for “limited-edition” collections, the claim’s merited. But, Target beat 2015 Q1 expectations by fashion category sales; though “seen before,” Lilly for Target didn’t disappoint.
Still, Target should consider their habit to fall, then fly to the top by designer is finite. Though resources will run-dry before the customers’ desires to buy. More than savvy communications strategies made the winning partnerships. Pop-up-shops, punchy commercials, and influencer sneak-peaks are important to raising awareness, even more-so when they were fresh pre-Missoni. But, considering lines like Altuzarra had everything from blogger backing to morning show buzz and still couldn’t break scarcity ceiling, it’s clear product and planning produce purchase more than promotion. Specific qualities make the “great” collaborations must-shops. And unfortunately for Target, they’re details designers are ditching to keep desirable in the fast-paced fashion cycle.
Liberty of London, Missoni, Lilly Pulitzer: all brands have a trademark style that shifts minimally between seasons. Compare this to current runways; one season Karl Lagerfeld is in a Parisian Café and the next a K-pop paradise. Fashion designers are diversifying. In contrast, Target’s powerhouse collaborations carry a “set” look, conveyed largely by print: romantic floras, zig-zags, and palm scenes respectively. They are identifiably designer without a logo, as pre-2000s logo-mania associated name-bearing buys with affordable luxury. If you can’t purchase the product, you buy the name. In being noticeably “designer” by print versus logo, the Target products show shoppers they deserve design, but still carry the advantage of being a recognizable designer. Print also shifts focus from quality production. The three lines were “designed” by their artful colors and prints, though silhouettes were relatively simple. Altuzarra pieces, on the other hand, tried to carry the brand’s sharp construction and disappointed. Missoni’s knits were easy to replicate, but there is no way to design a perfectly darted trench-coat for a discount department-store.
Print makes “world”s of Target’s un-inspiring apparel department atmospherics. Wall colors my be bland and fluorescents blinding, but bundle complimenting and colorful items together and a life is added to the style. Print puts the same flare on Target’s no-frills website; product photos add a customer-craved cuteness target commercials promise but shopping channels never fully convey.
Target caters to a certain shopper: the image-aware mom who “expect[s] more” but want’s to “pay less” for it. She is creative, calculated, and conscious about her buys. But, all in her Target cart feels pre-approved. Target fits into her “expect more” lifestyle because it is a trade-up from the K-marts and Walmarts. But because it meets-needs, Target’s customer always looks to trade-up to more. When the designer collaborations create “worlds” that are dreamy extensions of customers’ current lifestyles, like a suburban pool paradise or city of stroller-toting spies, they win. These worlds make advertising matter. Lily Pulitzer’s celebrity-packed spot was not desirable for it’s star power. The celebrities were simply artifacts of her carefree world, like the giganticized teapots taking Liberty of London’s promotion to royal excess. Pulitzer’s party represents a luxurious leisure that’s the fantasy to the burger and beach parties Lilly buyers actually don their duds for. Similarly, Moms in Missoni might not be passing notes on spy missions, but will trade gossip tips from behind their strollers. It’s this half-relatable, half-unreal mix making customers buy. The concept caters to Target shoppers’ appreciation of life, but aptness to strive for more. Peter Pilotto had a signature style but couldn’t garner frenzy because promotions fell-short of putting a world to his print.
Of course, these “worlds” are much easier realized when merchandise isn’t limited to apparel. When shoppers can see a hammock in the same style as a dress, they see not fashion trends but on-trend existences. Shoppers don’t stop at Target to fill their closets, they go to craft their lives. And so for frenzy-above-the-usual, the collaborations’ “world”s can’t stand seamless with Target merchandise. If Target is more-seeking shoppers’ realities, the “worlds” work when they have a touch of inaccessibility. Occasions for a boldly zig-zagged sweater dresses are few, but that’s where the appeal is found.
Customers don’t need designers to diffuse products into a store’s style. It’s why Marc Jacobs is absorbing their Marc wear into the main line. Customers want straight-from-the-runway, not a modification. Though, if it’s runway imitated but not designer identifiable, why pay Target prices when Forever 21’s are cheaper? Sure, in abstracted animal prints Phillip Lim looked high-fashion; but this fashion feel is found in any shop. Conversely trademark prints are intellectual property; fast fashion can’t touch them.
And perhaps the best plan to communicate wanted-but-rare products, is the appearance of no planning at all. Website crashes and shutdowns, while frustrating, give Target shoppers the experience needed to make the products “special.” Millennials, trade turkey dinners for Black-Friday lines; they associate chaotic shopping with deals on quality items. The quality construct strengthens when, shut out, they cruise eBay for the exclusive items, to find their forty-dollar cardigan’s worth doubled fifty percent.
Target is simultaneously in a hard and happy spot; needing designers while needing to take the strategy slowly. The store carries trendy table-settings, furniture, and foods with cohesive colors to their apparel. They could set up their own “world” (call it a lifeSTYLE spot) within their stores-a little real and a little unrealized–and likely see stronger core-category sales. But because target is so in-tune with their shoppers, whether they can forever own the fantasy they continually seek is unsure.