- After disappointing customers with the news that sales of rain boots would be delayed until sometime after the April 14 launch of its new limited edition Hunter collaboration, Target on Friday said that the signature boots wouldn't be a part of it at all.
- The retailer says it encountered production issues with the boots that in the end “simply didn’t meet our standards, Hunter’s standards, or the standards we want guests to have when they shop at Target.” The company is working with a third party to recycle the boots, the company said.
- The collection otherwise includes apparel for women, men and kids, gear like coolers and accessories like bags and backpacks. Footwear includes sneakers and slides, but no boots.
Target last week apologized for the production snafu and said it’s looking into what happened to prevent similar mistakes in the future — but it’s a big miss considering that Hunter made its name with the iconic rain boots and that Target’s collaborations with major labels and designers are key to its merchandise differentiation.
The retailer's merchandising chief, Mark Tritton, apologizing on the blog post, didn’t elaborate on the production problems. But customers who did manage to buy boots from the collaboration, posting on the company’s Facebook page, noted stains, tears, visible glue, misaligned seams, crooked reflector patches and skewed lettering in the Hunter logo. Others were disappointed because they weren't allowed to purchase boots in stores when they took them to the checkout counter.
Under CEO Brian Cornell, Target has revived energy around design collaborations as part of an effort to reclaim its "cheap chic" reputation to compete in the fiercely competitive discount apparel market, to mostly good effect. But things haven't always gone smoothly. At times problems have centered on swift sell-outs that resulted in disappointed customers. The retailer has tried to address complaints and challenges by limiting purchases to prevent re-selling and holding special events for its REDcard loyalty card holders. A Victoria Beckham collection last year shattered online sales records, and collections with trendy celebrities and brands continue to help earn Target its "cheap chic" reputation.
The retailer’s choice this year is well aimed given Hunter's status as a legacy British label enjoying a moment of high brand awareness and popularity. "[B]ased on our research, the brand has the highest guest awareness of any of our past design partnerships," Tritton said in a company blog post last month.
Unfortunately, however, that makes the boot debacle all the more serious for the mass merchant, and it's difficult to fathom how the issues didn't get caught and addressed during the manufacturing phase.