Another Target Missoni Reminder: When It Comes To Out-Of-Stocks, You Can’t Win

Written by Frank Hayes
September 21st, 2011

After everything else that happened to Target in the wake of its catastrophically successful Missoni sale on September 13, here’s one more thing to add insult to injury: Customers are now complaining about their online orders being delayed or canceled—and then seeing the merchandise they couldn’t get showing up again on But it’s hard to blame this problem on Target’s new E-Commerce site—the same thing happened to Target and other E-tailers last Black Friday, when was still being run by Amazon.

The “now it’s out-of-stock, now it’s back in stock” problem isn’t new to either in-store or E-Commerce, and it’s one that retailers usually try to handle as quietly as possible with ever-smarter inventory systems. But that will probably never work, because real-time inventory stops working very well when an item is about to go out of stock. Unfortunately, giving online customers more information about a looming out-of-stock situation could actually encourage them to buy less—and may not keep them any happier.

In Target’s case, the retailer is keeping details to a minimum on the new Missoni problem, as it has all the way through the troubled promotion. (It’s a little odd to call it that—yes, there’s been plenty of trouble. But any time a retailer sells that much merchandise that fast, it feels very strange calling it “troubled.”) The chain just says the “unprecedented demand” affected the shipment of “select guest orders.”

That probably means some orders were spiked. Target’s fulfillment rules say that orders have to be shipped within a certain time. If there’s no product to ship, the order has to be canceled. Like much of the design for Target’s new site, that’s eminently logical. But when it runs afoul of what customers expect—as much of the new does—there’s bound to be trouble.

And it has to be galling to customers whose orders were canceled to check back a week after Missoni Tuesday to find that many of those same products (more than one-quarter of the Missoni items, according to a check of the Web site) were back in stock.

That’s a problem Target and every other E-tailer would like to solve. But real-time inventory won’t do it. When there’s plenty of stock, closely monitoring inventory to avoid canceling orders is unnecessary—there’s enough for everyone.

And when an item is nearly out of stock, a close watch on inventory doesn’t help.


Comments are closed.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.