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Los Angeles Times, Published February 05 2012

Target’s new Jason Wu line inspires long lines, frenzied shoppers

LOS ANGELES – Budget-conscious fashionistas queued up early at Target for a crack at a new clothing line created by upscale designer Jason Wu, part of the discounter’s latest effort to attract shoppers with cheap chic.

By 7:45 a.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, more than 100 people were waiting outside the Target store in West Hollywood, many wearing sweatpants, stifling yawns and clutching cups of coffee.

“This is insane. I’m totally shocked,” said Jennifer McNamara, 23, of West Hollywood while eyeing her competition in line. “I cannot believe how many people are in line. It’s just clothes.”

The women’s fashion line from Wu, the young designer best known for dressing first lady Michelle Obama for the inaugural ball, features 53 pieces including dresses, separates, handbags and accessories. Prices range from $19.99 to $59.99.

At 8 a.m., Target employees began letting in groups of 10 to 15 shoppers at a time. Once inside, dozens of women (and a few men) swarmed the displays and grabbed hangers of gauzy blouses and printed frocks, some snatching clothes from other people’s hands. Some shoppers circled the racks like hungry lions poised to devour a fresh kill, swooping in to pluck an item from among the hordes.

Standing beyond the scrum of shoppers, Sheila Guilford, 55, triumphantly held an armload of colorful dresses and tops. Guilford said she had learned her lesson after standing in line last September for the wildly popular Missoni line at Target: Get to the store early, and be prepared to elbow your way through the crowd.

“The Missoni launch was really chaotic. People were shoving and pushing and rushing into the door,” said the West Hollywood teacher. “This is much more civilized and tame.”

Still, when employees brought in fresh stock to replenish the empty racks, shoppers began grabbing clothes before they could be hung.

“We will start kicking people out of the store if you don’t wait!” a security guard barked. “Stand back until we hang up the clothes!”

Similar scenes of civilized madness played out at other Target stores.

In the Eagle Rock section of Los Angeles, about 50 people standing in line hurried into the store after the doors opened.

“No running. And be kind to each other,” Target assistant manager Joseph Tong implored shoppers.

After a fraught five minutes of grabbing and snatching, just a few skirts and dresses remained on the racks.

In Valencia, north of Los Angeles, early-morning shoppers also rushed to the Jason Wu section, filling their carts with blouses, dresses and purses, clearing most of the racks within a few minutes.

Some shoppers griped that they could not find what they wanted despite getting up early.

“It’s a little disappointing,” said Bernice Bank, who spent $200 on blouses, purses and other items. “I thought there would be more.”

Many shoppers also woke up early to buy items online and reported the Target site worked well, although many pieces sold out within hours. Target’s Missoni launch last year angered many shoppers after heavy traffic crashed the retailer’s website, preventing some online purchases.