April 20, 2015

Target Launches Lilly Pulitzer Collaboration and Leaves Shoppers Feeling Blue

by Stites & Harbison, PLLC

Sorority girls were flocking to Target to pick up the pink, neon green, and orange line of the famous Lilly Pulitzer brand, but felt blue instead. Preppy princesses, myself included, were left empty-handed when the 250-piece limited-edition line sold out practically immediately. What's a girl to do?

Lilly For Target

Clothing items in the Lilly Pulitzer for Target line were priced around $30-40 each, compared to the typical $200+ prices found on the Lilly Pulitzer website and in high end stores like Norstrom and Saks. The collaboration between Lilly Pulitzer and Target sparked quite a debate. Lilly Pulitzer's brand recognition shot off the charts with people lining up outside Target as if it was Black Friday. Yet, many consumers argued the partnership would devalue the somewhat-luxury Lilly Pulitzer brand. For instance, Southern Sweetie, is not pleased:

Southern Sweetie

Southern Sweetie may have a point. Though collaboration is nothing new for Target, brand partnerships run the risk of weaking the brand. Target has previously collaborated with luxury brands such as Altazurra, Phillip Lim, Prabal Gurung, Zac Posen, Missoni, Jean Paul Gaultier, and the beloved Alexander McQueen.

Many brand experts agree that the more popular the Lilly line is at Target, the worse it is for Lilly Pulitzer the brand. Compare it to the Coach brand. Coach used to be considered an exclusive, high-end bag brand, but lost its exclusivity when its outlets started selling bags at half the price. Much of what drives high-end fashion is exclusivity. Further, branding expert Ken Homa agrees that drastically reducing prices prices can "create a negative long-term perception of a product and a down-channel effect, ultimately leading to market-share erosion."

Despite this, Lilly's collaboration with Target certainly caused a buzz. The collaboration allowed this luxury brand to gain additional exposure and attract new customers through its partnership with Target. While there may be benefits of partnerships, it seems as though luxury brands should focus on collaborations with companies that share similar values, such as the Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Alfred Dunhill partnership or the Apple Pay and MasterCard collaboration.

Perhaps this little pink partnership allowed the Lilly Pulitzer line to compete in a new market. As Lilly says, "Anything is possible with a little sunshine and pink."


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