Target says it has no plans to limit the quantities it sells of its limited-time designer lines even though more than 25,000 Missoni for Target products landed on eBay at much higher prices the same day as the launch last week.
So much for making high-end fashion "available to all," Target spokesman Joshua Thomas says.
"Missoni mayhem," as Thomas calls it, is but the latest example of a phenomenon that can give retailers and consumers fits. Hot items, whether they're trendy Christmas toys, the latest fashions or best bargains, draw crowds. But they also attract a form of retail scalper — people or small businesses buy in bulk, then sell products for a profit online or in stores.
Target's website crashed on Sept. 13, and much of the Missoni for Target line sold out in some stores and online. Many of the 400 Missoni fashions and home products sold at Target are still for sale on eBay, often at two or more times the price Target is, or was, charging.
A Missoni bikini that retailed for $50 at Target sold for twice that on eBay. The designer's ladies bicycle was priced by Target at $399, but was listed on eBay for as much as $1,800. At least one sold for more than $1,200 on the site.
Abercrombie & Fitch always limits purchases, and luxury stores including Saks Fifth Avenue put a cap on how many high-end designer products shoppers can buy to curb reselling. Other stores, including Target, do it at the holidays to keep resellers from depleting their inventories of hot gifts.
"Retailers are happy the demand is there, but the supply is limited, so they want to accommodate as many people as possible," says Joe LaRocca, the National Retail Federation's senior adviser on asset protection.
LaRocca says stores don't like to "lose control of their supply chain" as consumers run the risk of products being counterfeit or stolen when they're being resold.
"Is it something we're pleased with? No," Thomas says of the Missoni reselling. "We encourage consumers to be cautious because we can't validate the authenticity … or guarantee the consumer is getting the best value."
Retail scalpers also come from countries where the shopping is far more limited. Although stores including Abercrombie are expanding rapidly around the globe, there are still many places where a certain brand's logo can command high prices.
"Sometimes, it's cheaper to buy a plane ticket and have someone do the purchasing for you than to go through more established channels," says Alison Jatlow Levy, a retail strategist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon. "Regardless of whether they like it, (stores) should at the very least be acknowledging reselling and factoring it into their pricing and forecasting."
Other discounted designer lines that proved popular on eBay were Jimmy Choo shoes and Lanvin fashions at H & M and model Kate Moss' line for Topshop, says Miriam Lahage, vice president of brand relations at eBay.
"We connect buyers and sellers," Lahage says. "Sellers would anticipate demand and look to deliver inventory they think is going to be in high demand."
Thomas says Target isn't ordering more Missoni, though some stores may get some new products because of back orders or shipment delays. The chain has no plans to move Missoni between stores, he says.
The Missoni for Target enthusiasm confirms its "collections become like collectibles" and are "highly desirable," Thomas says.
Retail brand expert Ken Nisch agrees. "If people are selling for more than they paid, that means more people want it and not enough people have it," says Nisch, chairman of JGA, a retail design and brand strategy firm. "Nobody scalps a ticket for a losing team."