Lilly Pulitzer for Target causes shopping frenzy

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By Emanuella Grinberg

(April 19, 2015) — Bright floral pastel dresses, beach coverups and oversized totes flew off the racks at Target stores Sunday morning as eager shoppers snatched up pieces from the retailer’s limited edition Lilly Pulitzer collection.

Much of the collection was sold out online and in stores within hours of going on sale Sunday morning, drawing ire from customers who missed out on the chance to own discounted versions of apparel and accessories by the queen of American resortwear.

Target has been responding to disgruntled customers via Twitter since early Sunday morning, when online shoppers began complaining about website outages on Target.com and difficulties placing orders. By Sunday afternoon, most items on Target.com were out of stock, forcing Target to break the news that no more inventory would become available.

“The #LillyforTarget collection is available for a limited-time. We do not anticipate more items becoming available,” the retailer said through its @AskTarget account.

“We are learning from these experiences and sharing with our online and store teams,” the company said in response to another irate customer.

The 250-piece collection features apparel, accessories and shoes for women and girls, as well as home decor in 15 exclusive prints at attractive prices. Lilly’s signature sleeveless, collarless shift for adults currently retails from $180 to $300; the Target version is available for $38. Target’s Lilly Pulitzer bikinis are priced at $48 for the top and bottom, compared to $136 for the two pieces.

Lines started forming as early as 5 a.m. outside Target stores across the country for the colorful collection. Pictures on social media showed lines extending into parking lots. Other images showed racks completely emptied of inventory within minutes of doors opening.

The situation was not much better for online shoppers, who started visiting Target.com at midnight. Many found the site was down; others complained of being unable to add items to their carts or that by the time they made it to checkout, the items were no longer unavailable

Target often teams up with high-end designers to create limited edition fashion lines. The collections, from designers such as Alexander McQueen, Prabal Gurung (a favorite of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge), and Jason Wu (who designed one of Michelle Obama’s inaugural gowns), tend to create lots of buzz and sell out within hours.

Pulitzer herself died in 2013 at the age of 81, but the brand lives on. Her sleeveless, collarless shift dresses became a signature of the Palm Beach, Florida, party set after she starting selling them from a juice stand in 1959.

CNN’s Katie Lobosco and Sarah LeTrent contributed to this report.