February 14, 2008, 12:00 AM

Valentine’s Day rush overwhelms card web sites

Valentine’s Day online turned out to be a challenge for many retailers who count on the day for e-sales. Hallmark.com was unavailable or significantly slower than usual throughout the day, reports Keynote Systems. Other card sites also responded slowly.

Valentine’s Day online turned out to be a challenge for many retailers who count on the day for e-sales.

Hallmark Cards Inc.’s Hallmark.com was unavailable or significantly slower than usual throughout the day, reports Keynote Systems Inc., a provider of mobile and web performance monitoring services. Starting at 8 a.m. Eastern time, Hallmark’s home page response time grew from an average of 1.5-2 seconds to 12 to 18 seconds, and sometimes took a minute or more, Keynote reports. At times it was not available at all.

“Most web browsers will time out after a minute, so that in effect makes the site unavailable,” says Shawn White, director of external operations for Keynote, which monitors sites for performance. Hallmark is No. 121 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

White reports that performance improved at 11 a.m. Eastern, but then deteriorated as West Coast shoppers went online.

A Hallmark spokeswoman says the site is up but that traffic was heavier than expected. She says Hallmark was trying to remedy the situation as it could throughout the day but that customers could expect to experience problems for the rest of Valentine’s Day.

Hallmark was not alone in its performance problems, according to Keynote. American Greetings Corp.’s AG.com, BlueMountain.com and 123Greetings.com all experienced response time slowdowns on Thursday. 1800Flowers.com, Egreetings.com and JacquieLawson.com experienced no significant problems on Thursday, Keynote reports.

White reports, however, that egreetings.com experienced a slowdown on Wednesday afternoon, but recovered and was exhibiting no problems on Thursday.

“This is completely avoidable,” White says. “Retailers should be planning for days like this, doing load testing and measuring themselves vs. their competition.”

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