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Pulitzer wins the prize for Target as collection takes minutes to sell out in-store, a few hours online

The power of the designer label/mass retailer collaboration really hit home Sunday. US value retail giant Target struck gold as its website, apps and stores were overwhelmed following the launch of its much anticipated tie-up with Palm Beach-inspired fashion favourite Lilly Pulitzer.

Three hours into the early Sunday morning sale, the entire selection was almost sold out online, said Target, mirroring the launch of its collaboration with Missoni in 2011.

Meanwhile, at stores nationwide, the floral and pastel-coloured prints sold out in a matter of minutes. Employees at Target in Watchung, New Jersey, told Dow Jones the store was completely sold out of Lilly Pulitzer gear within half an hour of opening. Many customers had started lining up at 6am, they said.

Columbia Heights, Washington DC store manager DaNae Moore said that about 100 people were waiting in line for the store to open Sunday morning. The Lilly Pulitzer items were gone in around 15 minutes. An “immediate crowd wiped through almost all the merchandise,” Moore told The Washington Post

Frantic demand for the 250-piece line sent Target’s website off line for about 20 minutes in the early hours, as demand for swimwear, shift dresses and jumpsuits intensified before stores opened at 8am.

During the morning, Target also paced visits to the site, leaving many shoppers unable to access it or a shopping app. The company also delayed the online launch by two hours.

“When the traffic got heavier, we made the website inaccessible,” Target spokesman Joshua Thomas said.

“We realize there is an extreme amount of excitement around this collaboration, and we apologise for any disappointment this may have caused our guests,” Thompson added.

Target planned to have the sale up fully live at 3am Central Time, but delayed it until 5am because of high traffic, Thomas said. The number of visits was similar to Black Friday sales around Thanksgiving, he noted.

Shortly after the items sold out in person and online, sky-high priced versions of the line began to appear on websites such as eBay.

Target has been building demand for the Lilly Pulitzer line, setting up a temporary store in New York’s Bryant Park. The company also promoted the line in TV ads that started last week.

Based on how quickly the collection is selling, Thomas said much of Target’s paid advertising will end Sunday, including banner ads online. TV ads are likely to end Monday morning.

Lilly Pulitzer was a major label in the US during the 1960s and was worn by socialites and housewives alike. Founder Pulitzer closed it down in the 1980s but it was revived by Sugartown Worldwide a decade later and she continued to act as its creative consultant.

Although Pulitzer died in 2013, the label she founded is still a major name in the US and beyond, offering a range of lifestyle products as well as the brightly patterned womenswear for which it is known.

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