Lowe's, J. Crew Find Online-Shopping Surge Stresses Websites

(Bloomberg) -- Black Friday is now possible from the comforts of your living room -- but only if retailers’ websites are functioning properly. Some frustrated shoppers are finding that’s not the case.

In a year when digital sales are soaring, several big-name chains have reported issues with their online shopping systems. Home-improvement store Lowe’s Cos. temporarily showed an error message on Friday afternoon, noting that “we are making some important changes and should be up and running soon.”

Lowe’s said the website’s “intermittent outages” were due to increased customer traffic.

J. Crew reported on Twitter late Friday morning that it was experiencing “some technical difficulties” as buyers flocked to its site for 50 percent off everything deals. On Friday afternoon, the company’s homepage was down, with a full-page banner asking customers to “hang on a sec” amid higher than normal traffic. A J. Crew spokesman didn’t reply to requests for comment.

Lululemon Athletica Inc. said on Facebook late Thanksgiving that it was “working hard to get the dot com running smoothly again.”

“Our North American website experienced some minor disruption in service which the team quickly mitigated to restore our guest experience. We are managing closely throughout this week and into Cyber Monday,” a Lululemon spokeswoman said in an email Friday. “We sincerely apologize to any of our guests impacted by this issue.”

A spokeswoman at Kohl’s Corp. said some of its customers had “a less-than-perfect experience” shopping online, but said that didn’t stop the chain from having a record day of online traffic on Thanksgiving Day.

“We are aware of some earlier intermittent technology issues that may have interfered with some customers’ ability to check out quickly and easily. Our teams worked quickly to address and resolve,” she said in an email.

Walmart, Too

Even Walmart Inc., the world’s biggest retailer, reported issues amid higher than expected web traffic. The big-box store -- which saw some of the biggest online-sales increases in the week leading up to Thanksgiving -- reported sluggishness before the holidays even began.

“Due to extremely high demand for our Black Friday deals Wednesday night, our site experienced some delays shortly after our event began online,” Walmart spokesman Danit Marquardt said in a statement. “Many customers were still able to check out smoothly, and we were able to quickly fix the issue.”

According to Adobe Analytics, as of 10 a.m. Friday, $643 million has been spent online, up about 28 percent year on year. Digital spending is on track to exceed $6.4 billion on Friday -- maybe even surpassing last year’s Cyber Monday totals, it said.

Mobile shopping represents a growing share of e-commerce this season. That’s because consumers are getting more comfortable making big purchases with their phones and major retailers are investing in their mobile apps, according to Lexi Sydow, a senior analyst for mobile insights provider App Annie.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.