A new forecast from Forrester Research credits greater online spending by Canadians, lower shipping costs and more selection for the spending increase.
Social media lit up as consumers crowed about buying items at ultra-low prices.
This morning, a technical glitch on Walmart.com caused the prices of many items to temporarily drop to, in at least some cases, a fraction of what they were meant to be. By noon, the glitch appeared to be gone—but not before some shoppers had snagged deals and spread word of the better-than-everyday low prices on social media.
Wal-Mart is still determining how many products and orders were affected, and for exactly how long, according to a spokesman for the retailer. “This was simply a technical error, and we’re still working through the details of our customer orders and will follow up with customers directly,” he says.
Wal-Mart also released a statement saying that its web site might be intermittently unavailable today as it works to correct the problem, with apologies to customers.
Posts under the Walmart hashtag (#Walmart) on Twitter and Facebook coming from consumers and deals aggregators today pointed out the low prices. Affiliate marketing site Yes We Coupon on Facebook posted “HOT! HOT! HOT! – Cricut Expression 2 Electronic Cutting Machine ONLY $4.80 At Walmart – Save $244.20” (sic), with a link to a blog post on its web site displaying a screenshot of that price on Walmart.com. On the retailer’s site, the item is now out of stock and is listed at a much higher price, $224.10.
A consumer comment on the Yes We Coupon blog post (which included an admission of incredulousness from its author, who wrote, “This order may get cancelled but it is definitely worth a try”) from 9:26 a.m. reads “I just tried this and added 10 to my cart. Before I could check out, they were sold out. Same with Silhouette Cameo and MANY accessories!”
Another deals aggregator, Sea of Savings, posted on Facebook this morning a link to a high chair for $7.28 on Walmart.com, with the remarks, “Wow! Do you or someone you know need a high chair?! This will sell out...so grab it quick!” The high chair is now listed at $33.88 and out of stock.
Meanwhile on Twitter, one shopper tweeted that he used Walmart.com’s temporary price cuts to receive a steep discount on a video game in a Best Buy Inc. store, taking advantage of that retailer’s price-matching policy. Arthur Moy, who goes by the Twitter handle “speedbrkr,” posted on the micro-blogging network that he’d bought the Nintendo 3DS video game “Pokemon Y” for $18.03 at Best Buy after showing a store associate on his smartphone that the game was listed at that price on Walmart.com. Now its Walmart.com price is $39.95 and the game is sold out.
Best Buy did not immediately respond to a request for comments.
Also on Twitter, author John Green (@realjohngreen3h), posted the following, in reference to his novel, “The Fault in Our Stars”: “In truly ridiculous price war news, Wal-Mart appears to be selling TFiOS for $3.05.” Minutes later, he continued by Tweet, “Also, the $80 box set containing all my books in hardcover is $11. (I don't lose money on this, but Wal-Mart sure does.)”
Walmart.com’s misstep comes at a time when the world’s largest retailer is investing heavily to increase its web sales. Walmart.com now stocks 5 million SKUs, up from 2 million last year, a product of it’s allowing more outside merchants to sell on the site. Wal-Mart reported recently that its e-commerce sales are up 30% over last year, and projected $14 billion in global web sales in 2014. Walmart.com, No. 4 in the 2013 Top 500, sold $7.7 billion via the web in 2012, according to Internet Retailer estimates.
Wal-Mart is not the first retailer to have technical difficulties interfere with its prices. This summer, a glitch in eBay Inc.’s PayPal payments service erroneously told one consumer he owed $92,233,720,368,547,800 on his account. And eBay itself went down for six hours in August when a maintenance glitch knocked out several of its web sites.
At the end of the day, the spokesman updated that Wal-Mart has cancelled all the customer orders for the aberrantly priced items. The cancelled orders will be refunded in full and customers will also receive a $10 e-gift card to use in Walmart.com or in stores, he said. The e-commerce site is functioning normally again.