If Target has become known for one thing (besides a place where you can buy almond milk, a TV, and a coat all in one trip) it's designer collaborations. As one of the first mass-marketers to offer runway-worthy pieces at wallet-friendly prices, Target has led the way for the genre, for better and for worse.
After the announcement of its latest designer collaboration with prepster favorite Lilly Pulitzer, Target found itself mired in a whole new swamp of controversy. Having learned from the Altuzarra x Target collection about how the plus community felt snubbed by the lack of extended sizes, Target made sure to offer plus sizes this time around — but only online (stores will stock up to size 18).
When this news came to light, the plus community vented across social media, disillusioned that Target was still not treating them as spending equals to smaller shoppers. The posts ranged from general dismay to suggesting that Target was acting like a boyfriend too ashamed to be seen with his bigger girlfriend. Overall, it was not the reaction Target was hoping for.
For many people — regardless of size — shopping is an emotional experience, so it's not surprising that these women felt rejection as they were relegated to online-only options and unable to shop in-store. But, the thing is, Target is a retailer; like any other company, it needs to make a profit. It's not about to support a product that gets no traction with its customer base. "One thing we see with our limited-edition shoppers, shoppers who are really gravitating to these collaborations, is that they do a heavy amount of shopping online. It's that purchase behavior of 'Is it available yet?'" explained Target spokesperson Joshua Thomas.
Target had previously tested offering extended sizes with the Calypso St. Barth collaboration in 2011, but due to the poor sales in plus sizes, it stopped offering them completely until this latest collection. Despite having been burned once before, Target is testing the waters again. “We're offering [plus sizes] on Target.com because Target.com gives us an opportunity to try different things. It affords us the opportunity to be flexible in terms of our assortment, and also, keeping in mind, the last time we did this, [offered plus in a designer collaboration,] it didn't work,” Thomas said. “We need to take a measured approach in terms of responding to the guests, because they say this is something they want to purchase; so we're hearing the feedback, we're seeing the feedback, and what I think is really important, we are responding to the feedback.”
Reading between the lines, is seems that if the plus division does well online, there's a better chance that the next collaboration will offer plus designs in-store. Conversely, if sales bomb, it will suggest that the need is just not there. The eventual outcome is ultimately placed in the hands and wallets of shoppers.
Although Target has received a great deal of flack regarding its general plus clothing assortment, or lack thereof, the inclusion of expanded sizes with the Lilly Pulitzer line is a step in the right direction. If this collection doesn't make you want to break out your credit cards, still stay tuned — our guess is that there are others on the way. If you need proof, just look at Instagram and Facebook, where bloggers such as GabiFresh, Nicolette Mason, and Chastity Garner have been teasing good news to come for women who are above a size 14 and love that big, red bullseye.