How to Survive a Target Special Collection Sale

Yesterday, Target released its much-anticipated Marimekko for Target collection. Over the years, Target has partnered with high-end designers to create a special collection of items just for Target at Target prices rather than designer prices. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy that has paid off for the retailer. Demand is very high and often the release events make the mainstream news, either because hundreds of people wait out in front of the store or because Target’s website goes down from the traffic — or because it can get a little violent. Also, predators hit the Target stores to hoard and sell the items for designer prices on eBay.

One of the first Target collections was Go International in 2003, with Luella Bartley designing a capsule collection for the store. Since the collaborations started, Target has worked with Alice Temperley, Jason Wu, Orla Kiely, Liberty of London, Proenza Schouler, Missoni, Rodarte, The Webster, Neiman Marcus, Altuzarra, Zac Posen, Alexander McQueen, and Jean Paul Gaultier, among others.

jean paul gaultier for Target

These collections are in high demand, selling out online and in stores in mere hours. I am a veteran shopper of Target’s collections and I want to share with you my advice on how to survive and thrive a Target capsule collection sale.

I got serious about hitting the collections in 2010 with the Liberty of London collaboration (please reissue that collection, Target!) and I determined I needed a strategy for shopping these events. If you aren’t prepared to make sacrifices to get what you want from these limited-run collections, including sleep and time, then you will not get what you want. Stop reading if you can’t be bothered — I have no time for beta-shoppers.


The best way to approach the Target event is with a two-pronged strategy: an online plan and a brick and mortar plan. To begin, you need to do some research. Many fashion websites, including Target, will reveal the items in the collection ahead of time. STUDY THEM. Know what you want and prioritize.

Accept that you might be up all night waiting for the online store to go live. Target has this new thing where they do not tell you what time the collection goes live on the site. If that means you are hitting refresh every 30 seconds starting at 1 a.m. (like me for the Missoni 2012 sale) then that is what it takes.

Also, make sure your Target account is set up, all information is current and you can check out smoothly. The reason is:


Do not think you can casually surf around the website adding things to you cart– they will be removed if other people want the same item and are actually checking out. You must triage your purchases online. Purchase your first tier and then return for another round of items of lesser importance. I was lucky and ended up with each of the items I wanted in the Marimekko collection…until I went to a brick and mortar store and the purchasing continued.

Missoni for Target

If you can’t get everything you want, or you just want to “see” the merchandise, you can head over to an actual Target after online shopping. WARNING: YOU MIGHT BUY EVEN MORE STUFF IF YOU DO THIS.

The brick and mortar strategy is similar to the online strategy and centered around what you’ve triaged.


Hit the suburbs. If you live in the D.C. area, as I do, do not bother with a D.C. Target and do not bother with the Target on Route 1 in Alexandria. Everyone will be there and you will encounter human obstacles.

If a collection like Marimekko or Missoni or Lilly Pulitzer has numerous items in different departments, you are going to have to make some tough choices. You can go to the clothes, shoes, or the kids department first, BUT NOT ALL OF THEM.  You will not get what you want in the department you forego and you must accept that, so choose wisely.

It helps to know your Target and where the departments are; don’t waste time asking a red shirt where the beach towels are, while other shoppers are flying past you throwing your wish list items in their shopping carts. While I was waiting outside Target yesterday morning, two ladies and I discussed how we chose this entrance because it was a straight line to the housewares. Had we chosen the other entrance, we’d have had to maneuver to get where we wanted to go first. You don’t need this kind of inertia.

I decided I wanted a beach hat once I arrived at Target, but I chose to go to the housewares first. I did not get a beach hat at my Target. But I ended up with one anyway, which leads me to…

See next page for Rule #3.


My partner is Lisa DePasquale: she is trustworthy, discerning and honorable. I was in communication with her, and when the beach hats sold out at my location, she was at another suburban Target and picked one up for me.

There are several dimensions to a Target shopping partnership. The first way is to GO TO DIFFERENT TARGETS — this is the one Lisa and I employed.  After you have discussed what your priorities are, you can coordinate with your partner to supplement inventory should your specific journey fall short.

Another method is to go to the same Target, but head for different departments. The two young women who were waiting with me outside my suburban Target utilized that method. One planned on the housewares, the other headed for the clothes. They each knew what the other wanted from the particular department and ended up with a successful operation. I was proud of my sisters-in-arms.

Next page: Your dressing room strategy. 

It’s a safe bet that you will not have time to try things on and get a different size. Grab a few neighboring sizes, throw them in your shopping cart and then take them to the dressing room.


Not everything works out for people in the dressing rooms, so you may be able to snag the item you want or the proper size if you keep your eye on the changing rooms.

There will be collections where you aren’t going to get everything you want no matter what. I did not go to the Lilly Pulitzer collection because I don’t care for Lilly. Apparently it was a mad house and the Target website crashed. But people do return things, so if you are really dedicated or go to Target several times a week like me, check around and you might find what you were looking for after the fact. About 3 or 4 months after the Missoni sale, I was in a Las Vegas Target for no good reason, and found a black Missoni sweater that I didn’t manage to purchase during the event. It was on sale for $10 and now it’s mine.

missonitarget black sweater

In closing, these Target collections can be mastered if you spend time and effort planning strategically. Fortune is reporting the Marimekko collaboration did not perform as well as the Lilly event. “The majority of items in the 200 item collection, which feature Marimekko’s distinctive patterns and bright colors ranging from $7.99 to $499.99, were still available for sale online on Sunday mid-afternoon, Eastern time. About 50 are now sold out.”

“We don’t intend for these to sell out in a day,” a Target spokesman told Fortune.

You never can be too careful, ladies. There’s no telling what will fly off the shelves. I hope my advice was helpful. See you in the racks of Target for the next special collection!