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Woolworths, having become the latest victim of the credit crunch yesterday, seems to have taken its website offline this afternoon.

Visitors to the website will find this message: 'Our site is currently undergoing essential maintenance. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Please check back later.

The website was up and running this morning, so it must have been taken down over the last couple of hours. 

The company's problems are all over the news, so visitors will be in no doubt about the real reasons behind the site been down, but why has the company chosen to put such a vague message online? 

After all, some customers may have ordered Christmas presents before yesterday's announcement, and will be concerned about whether the goods will arrive.

I called the company's press office to find out more, but only got as far as the answerphone. Customer Services were more helpful, and advised me that 'all orders will be fulfilled where stock is available or else refunds will be issued'.

Tnis is obviously good news for customers, so why didn't Woolworths put a statement to this effect on its homepage instead of such a vague notice? It would save a fair amount of anxiety for its customers, as well as reducing pressure on its call centre.

While its high street competitors like M&S have been updating their websites over the past couple of years, Woolworths's website still looked pretty basic by comparison, so perhaps it has been slow to adapt online.

Woolworths website

Webcredible's recent usability report on high street retailers online put Woolies in 16th place (out of 20), behind rivals like M&S, John Lewis and Argos, though its score of 65% was by no means the worst.

Stats from Hitwise suggest that, whatever the reason, it has not been attracting the same levels of traffic online as M&S, Argos etc. Its market share of internet visits in the Department store category is behing that of all of its obvious rivals:

Hitwise- Top 10 Department Stores ranked by share of visits, Oct 08

A year on year chart showing traffic between October 2007 and 2008 for department store websites category paints a similar picture:

Visits to selected Department Store websites, Oct 07 – Oct 08

This is the seond website we have noticed closing lately thanks to the recession this week; online pureplay 247 Electrical, as we reported yesterday, has also ceased trading.

Related articles:
Should you start a business in today's recession?
Top 10 tips for retailers to combat the economic downturn

Related research:
Online Shopping and Credit Crunch Survey Report

Graham Charlton

Published 27 November, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Vincent

Strange decision indeed, but mayhave been under orders of the administrators.

Their historical site is still available:
http://museum.woolworths.co.uk/

almost 8 years ago

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Chris Hoskin

There is a little bit of me in despair. Why not monetise the traffic in some way? Worst case they could have been paid affiliate fees.

over 7 years ago

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thomas

will woolworths be able to deliver orders that you have preordered

over 7 years ago

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Missy

The site is still down...I wanted to see if they had some chocolates I bought last year from them. I know nothing about businesses and administration etc, but I hope Woolies can get through it. I feel sorry for its employees, especially during this economic period. :(

over 7 years ago

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digger

I understand that Woolies website and all of the software that handled the sales was provided by and hosted by a contract firm.
The first thing that Deloitte did was to send all of the contract workers home and end all existing contracts, none of which are likely to be paid.

So the website was taken down.
Annoyingly , they do not now have the access to the software or all of the content, credit card payments, customer details etc etc , or the wherewithal to continue online trading.
Of course there is no obligation even to keep the information.

Not so much faith in Deloittes' proper job then?

over 7 years ago

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Hunter Nuhfer

Excellent article that will provide the incentive and basis for my works.I wonder if I can mention the article as a bibliographic reference in my work. Thanks!

about 6 years ago

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