FINANCE

Cyber Monday Bloopers Cost Sales

BY CSA STAFF

Lexington, Mass. Several high-profile retailers experienced Web site problems on Cyber Monday, considered one of the most important online shopping days of the year.

According to Gomez, Inc., whose services test and monitor the performance of Web sites, merchants such as Dell, Victoria’s Secret and Williams-Sonoma experienced Web site issues on Monday morning, causing them to lose sales opportunities and frustrate shoppers.

“Even the largest brands in retailing are not immune to Web-performance issues,” said Matt Poepsel, VP at Gomez. “The issue is that retailers are trying every trick in the book to wring sales out of their Web sites, but when Web site complexity meets volume of shoppers, there’s just more opportunity for things to go wrong. The math is quite simple: Web site down, revenue lost, shoppers go elsewhere.”

Problems recorded by Gomez tests included shopping-cart page malfunctions on the Victoria’s Secret site, payment-page delays on Williams-Sonoma’s site, and account-information errors at Dell.com.

As well, reported Gomez, Costco and Sears experienced site-availability problems and Overstock.com was running far slower than the norm.

Monday reports also revealed that J. Crew’s Web site was unavailable for a substantial portion of Cyber Monday. Bloomingdales.com was also down on Monday morning and afternoon.

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Cyber Monday savings extended at Walmart.com

BY CSA STAFF

BRISBANE, Calif. Walmart.com announced that it will extend its “Cyber Monday” savings through Dec. 1. The retailer is offering up to 30% savings on top brands like Samsung, Garmin, Nintendo Wii and Fisher-Price.

“It’s important to help our customers get the most out of their Christmas budgets this year, and we’re doing just that with up to 30 percent savings on more than 150 Cyber Week online specials,” said Raul Vazquez, Walmart.com ceo. “Once again, we’re helping customers save even more by extending these online specials all week long and making many available for free shipping with Site to Store and 97-cent shipping to home.”

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November comps may decline double digits

BY CSA STAFF

It should come as a surprise to no one that the monthly sales figures Target is set to release this Thursday are not expected to be good. The company said in early November it expected same-store sales to decline between 6% and 9%, after a decline of 4.8% in October. The company also appeared to lower expectations further on Nov. 17, when it released third-quarter financial results and cfo Doug Scovanner commented that sales were trending lower than that company had expected. Now, some analysts are forecasting that Target could actually see same-store sales dip into negative double digits.

Target won’t be alone when it reports weak November sales, but the headline number will appear much worse than it actually is due to this year’s late Thanksgiving holiday and a shift in the retail reporting calendar.

This year, Thanksgiving fell on fell on Nov. 27 and Target’s four week reporting period ended on Nov. 29, so the company missed out on holiday sales that would normally be included in its results when Thanksgiving falls earlier in the month. That was the case last year when Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 22 and the reporting period ended on Nov. 30. As a result, the company benefitted from sales that took place over the Thanksgiving weekend and holiday shopping that took place the following week that was reflected in November results. Target’s November results this year, while not expected to be good, will appear even worse since post-Thanksgiving holiday sales will be reflect in December results.

Although the monthly results will attract a lot of interest from the media this year, nuances of the retail reporting calendar tend to get lost in the shuffle and month-to-month shifts matter little since they even out over the course of a quarter. However, given all of the turmoil taking place in the economy and dire predictions of weak holiday sales, a lack of understanding of the quirky retail reporting calendar will lead to sales results that appear artificially weak.

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