Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft stores experienced a major failure on their online store, Joann.com, that left Thanksgiving weekend shoppers unable to access the site or complete purchases for almost the entire holiday weekend.
As of late Sunday evening, the site appeared to be back up and stable. However, some shoppers were still reporting difficulties on the company’s Facebook page with being unable to put items in the site’s cart or with the checkout process. There were also complaints that the advertised prices from earlier in the weekend were not being honored as promised on all items although some items appeared to be priced correctly.
The site apparently collapsed extremely early on in the Black Friday shopping day, although the company is reporting that it stayed up long enough for the advertised Cricut Personal Cutter special – a Doorbuster price of $74.99 – to sell out by 5:30am.
For most of the weekend, shoppers attempting to access the site were greeted with this error page:
Although a few people (myself included) reported being able to intermittently and briefly access parts of the site, from online user reports it seemed the checkout process was not working at all even when the site was visible to a few visitors.
Some customers seemed to be committed to spending their money at Joann.com and spent the weekend (impatiently) waiting out the outage and asking questions via platforms such as Facebook about compensation and extension of the coupons and offers that expired while the site was down. A few customers were able to place orders directly with Jo-Ann’s customer service number, but doing so required getting through on busy lines and having item numbers of products – which could pretty much only be obtained from the website. Jo-Ann’s customer service normally isn’t open on Sundays, but some staff were manning the phones there today during the public relations crisis.
Extensions and replacement sales have been promised by the company. Leigh Anne, the voice of Jo-Ann’s public relations on their Facebook page and message board, posted repeatedly on various outlets starting on Saturday that:
We understand your frustration over the outage on Joann.com. Jo-Ann is committed to providing outstanding customer service, which is why Joann.com will be making up for lost online Doorbuster Deals. We will host additional online shopping events with special pricing, subject to availability, and coupons once the site has been restored, so that you, our online shoppers, can take advantage of the deals missed during this outage. More details will follow.
On Sunday night, a further clarification of this plan was offered by Leigh-Anne on Facebook:
We will offer special promotional events to make up for lost online doorbuster and 3-Day Sale events for items that are still in stock. To avoid further site/access issues, the deals may be offered on different days (rather than large single-day sales events). We will share more information about these events/sales as soon as the details are finalized. Thank you for your continued patience.
Other customers didn’t wait for Joann.com to come back up, however. Corinna McGregor neatly summed up the sentiment of that group of customers when she posted on Facebook on Sunday evening:
i tried to shop friday morning and couldn’t get the site to even come up…..very frustrating……so i spent my dollars elsewhere.
The big question, of course, is how many customers did take their money elsewhere rather than waiting. CLNOnline reported on November 23rd that Jo-Ann’s had an excellent 3rd quarter (which ended Oct. 31st) sales report, with net sales up 6% and 3rd quarter earnings per diluted share expected to be $.88-.90 per share, double a year ago. CLN also reported that “based on the assumption that same-store sales will increase 2.3% – 2.7% for the entire fiscal year, the company increased its expected earnings/diluted share to $1.95 – $2.05 for the year (excluding any gains on debt purchases) from $1.35 – $1.50.” After hearing these numbers, some stock analysts raised their ratings on the company’s stock. According to CLN, Zacks.com rated Jo-Ann a Strong Buy and Soleil/Stein Research recommended the stock. Wedbush upgraded Jo-Ann from Neutral to Outperform. A disastrous Black Friday weekend (and the flood of angry customers who they may not be able to win back during the holiday season) could seriously undermine sales performance in the company’s 4th quarter and damage their positive momentum.
In a graphic illustration of the importance of building relationships with customers, some frustrated Joann.com customers have even been going so far in online postings as to accuse the company of staging the outage to avoid having to honor the advertised sales. Of course, from a financial and marketing standpoint a plan like that would be the equivalent of corporate suicide, but that hasn’t stopped some people from voicing opinions that the outage was deliberate. These conspiracy theories should serve as an important reminder to other scrapbook companies of the level of distrust with which many Americans view corporate entities, and remind them that they need to build capital with customers that they can call on at times like this.