Missoni frenzy at Target shows shoppers still crave luxury

— -- The economy may be in the dumps, but don't count out bargain-priced luxury items for the holidays.

That has to be the lesson learned by Target — and its biggest competitors — after a shopping frenzy more typically seen around Thanksgiving repeatedly crashed Target's website on Tuesday and sent shoppers by the hundreds waiting in line for sales on limited-time offerings on its Missoni for Target collection of clothing, housewares, luggage and even bikes.

"This talks to how people still have a taste for luxury brands, even if they can't afford them," says Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and author of Putting the Luxe Back in Luxury. While most folks might not be able to shop on New York's Fifth Avenue or at Neiman Marcus, she says, who can't afford a trip to Target?

For that matter, who says designer duds are dead?

"When you develop the right product at the right price, consumers will move heaven and earth to get it," says John Long, retail strategist at Kurt Salmon.

Particularly when it's for bargain-priced stuff from Missoni, the Italian luxury knitwear designer, made just for Target. The 400-piece line features its familiar zigzag patterns priced from $2.99 for stationery to $599.99 for patio furniture. That's a fraction of the price of the designer's signature clothing, which can fetch up to $1,500.

Result: Target's website kept crashing; its store lines got longer; and many consumers found themselves unable to buy what they wanted.

"This was Missoni mayhem," says Joshua Thomas, a Target spokesman. "This is unprecedented."

But Target officials couldn't have been completely surprised. Target prominently advertised the sale on the U.S. Open and even opened a temporary store in Manhattan that was supposed to stay open for three days but ended up closing after six hours because items sold out.

Celebrities of all kinds tweeted about the launch, from Jessica Simpson to actress Busy Phillips, who plays Laura in ABC's Cougar Town. "Got the bike," Phillips tweeted. "Not the colorful one but still SO EXCITED."

So, suddenly, are some retailers who were expecting a pretty humdrum holiday, but are now wondering if many consumers aren't raring to buy the right designer stuff at the right price.

It could get interesting. So, who's next to give designer bargains a go?

"We expect to see others dip their toe into this," Long says. "But you need to have the sourcing, the marketing, the supply chain" and the techno-wizardry to handle it all.

For Target, three out of the four wasn't enough.