NEW YORK — Target is a victim of its own success.
The discounter drummed up so much hype around its exclusive, limited-time line by upscale Italian designer Missoni that its Web site crashed and was down most of the day on Sept. 13 when the collection was launched, angering customers. More than a week later, some shoppers who bought the Missoni for Target line are posting on Facebook and Twitter that they won't shop at Target again because their online orders are being delayed — or worse, canceled — by the retailer.
Brielle deMartino, 23, from Del Ray Beach, Fla., was so excited that she woke up at 6 a.m. on the launch day and spent $700 on Missoni clothes, a bike and plates. The next day, she got an email from Target that her online order was canceled. Then, she spent hours on the phone with Target customer service representatives she describes as unapologetic.
"I have never been treated like this," says deMartino, who got the charges removed from her card after calling her bank. "Instead of taking responsibility, they didn't care. I have always been pro-Target, but I don't want to give my money to a company like that again."
Robert Passikoff, president of customer research firm Brand Keys, said his Loyalty Index shows Target's image has taken a hit. Target's reading fell to 109 from 119 in August. Brands should have at least a 116, Passikoff says, and anything under 100 signals "trouble."
"This was badly handled," he said. "What was supposed to be engaging and delightful is now the opposite — disappointment."
Morgan O'Murray, a Target spokeswoman, said the company experienced unprecedented demand for the collection and is working on correcting problems.
"This demand impacted our Target.com site and affected the shipment and delivery of select guest orders," O'Murray said in a statement. "Providing an exceptional experience is incredibly important to Target, and we have a team dedicated to addressing those guests who have been affected."
On the day of the launch, Target.com was down at multiple times throughout the day.
Ben Rushlo, director of performance management at Keynote Systems, which tracks Web sites' performance, said he couldn't remember the last time a site stayed down most of the day
"It wasn't your normal meltdown," he said.
Megan Bonner, 26, from Memphis, Tenn., bragged on Twitter after ordering $300 worth of Missoni dresses and cardigans until the next day when she got emails telling her that her shipments would be delayed. Nervous that she wouldn't get the items at all, she bought some of them at a nearby Target. But now she worries she won't be refunded for the other merchandise.
"I feel violated. I feel taken advantage of," she said. "If I don't hear back from them in another week, I will call back. Maybe I just won't go back anymore."
Analysts disagree on whether Target's image can rebound from the snafu.
C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group said that for Target to recover, it needs to placate angry customers by, say, offering $10 to $20 gift cards.
"A lot of companies don't want to fix the problem," he said. "They feel it's better to let it go away. But the problem is, that's a dangerous strategy."
But Brian Sozzi, a Wall Street Strategies analyst, says shoppers' discontent — much like the Missoni for Target line — is fleeting. "I think it is short-term anger," he said.