Designer x mass-market collaborations often do not tend to sell out. Of the recent designer collections, with the exception of Missoni (which not only sold out but also caused Target's site to crash and then resulted in a shortage of inventory and massive shipping mess) and Balmain for H&M (pieces from that collaboration sold out within minutes), most do not sell out. In fact, not only do the collections not sell out, they often end up heavily discounted after the fact. Yet, these partnerships of sorts have not ceased, suggesting that actual sales are not necessarily the only focal point.
As we’ve told you in the past, the takeaways for both parties are pretty clear: Designers (many of which are in the emerging stage - although there are some obvious exceptions) benefit from massive amounts of publicity (think: Vogue ads, television commercials, big celebrity-filled parties, and signs plastered on the walls at Target and on the sides of buses). The mass-market retailer has the benefit of gaining a massive number of media impressions and also baiting the consumer into their stores and onto their websites, and selling them an array of things other than the hyped clothing and accessories – which are often prices quite a ways above the spending limits for most of the brands’ usual shoppers.
Target, specifically, has benefitted significantly from its many designer collaborations over the years. Partnerships with brands including Proenza Schouler, Alexander McQueen, Richard Chai, Jonathan Saunders, Thakoon, Rodarte, and Zac Posen have helped the big box retailer position itself as quite a few steps above its early competition (think: Wal-Mart and co). Moreover, it has used the approach in furtherance of its goal to raise the average unit retail prices in its apparel business. It has also been able to utilize such opportunities to get shoppers into its stores and buying any array of items unrelated to the collaboration. However, as previously noted, with the sales of such collaboration garments and accessories comes a rather high rate of returns and/or a huge number of markdowns from the original retail price of such garments and accessories, and this is something that Target certainly was not immune to.
Designing a Collection Meant to Sell Out
It seems that Target is not necessarily satisfied with not having it all. Its most recent collab suggests that Target, which has lost a bit of its luster over the past several years after shifting its focus away from fashion, wants its collections to sell. And the retailer has teamed up with Who What Wear, the style site founded in 2006 by Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr. Per Forbes, “Product development, including career-friendly fashions, is informed by CMG user data generated from Who What Wear reader feedback, most-read posts, social media engagement and affiliate link shopping activity along with Power and Kerr’s extensive editorial experience and input gathered from Target’s guests.” Power told Forbes, “We’re combining our trend forecasting abilities with all of the data we have access to from our audience. We know what our women are shopping for at any given point in the year, and we’re talking to them directly on social media.”
Already in stark contrast to the majority of collections that preceded it (for Target and other retailers) is the sizing of the Who What Wear Collection, which hit Target stores and its website on Sunday - after garnering quite the celebrity-infused turnout for its launch event last week; Kate Bosworth, Jessica Alba, Eva Chen, Jaimie King, and others turned up to fete the collection. Most of the collaborations that we have seen to date have observed very limited sizing. You may recall Karl Lagerfeld’s very early collab with H&M, which went up to 16. Lagerfeld was openly very disappointed by the sizing, saying he created them for "slim, slender people.” Clearly aiming to serve a more expansive (and realistic) audience, the Who What Wear collection ranges from sizes 2-26.
As for pricing, the entire first part of the collaboration – roughly 70 or so pieces – is all under $50. And this won't be a one-off collaboration. Target's rolling out monthly capsule collections featuring street-style inspired clothing and accessories. New merchandise will be introduced in the first week of every month, thereby, keeping consumers coming back, potentially for a very long time. The project's monthly-delivery model has no end date, and the collaboration will hit 800 Target stores, as well as Target.com and a dedicated boutique on WhoWhatWear, "for years to come," Kerr noted on her Instagram account.
Interestingly, we will likely be able to gauge just how well this collaboration does by the number of months it remains in existence. We will certainly be calculating.