Downtime Ugliness At Beauty Site

Written by Fred J. Aun
June 10th, 2009

Meet the Queen of Crashes. Glamour-product retailer Sephora calls its E-Commerce effort “the world’s top beauty Web site.” The criterion for that claim is not revealed, but surely it isn’t uptime. is one of the most troubled retail sites in the segment, in terms of it staying open for business.

Sephora’s online face has repeatedly gone offline, often for hours, during the past six months. One of the worst spells began Saturday (June 6). It included a whopping eight hours of continuous downtime on Monday (June 8) and continued into the week, according to Web site monitoring company Pingdom.

Although the 8-hour outage on Monday was—at the time—the longest period the site was dead in the water, the other outages were not minor. In addition to the 8-hour incident on Monday, the site was offline ten other times that day with four of those outages lasting an hour or more and the others lasting at least 25 minutes. The site also was reported by Pingdom to be down about 10 times on Saturday, with most of those outages being less than 30 minutes long.

But Sephora has been running into quite a history of site problems, dating back to last year’s Cyber Monday (Dec. 1). It was then among a smaller group of retailers who had an issue a week after that and then was part of an even smaller group of retailers still struggling to stay up yet two weeks after Cyber Monday.

On Sunday, was offline for about two hours straight at one point. That was in addition to eight other outages ranging from 26 minutes to 47 minutes, according to Pingdom. “If we look back a bit farther, also had a longer outage on May 8” of three hours and 25 minutes, said Pingdom Web Analyst Peter Alguacil. “It’s the second-longest continuous outage they have had during the last three months.” He said the site managed only a 97.82 percent average uptime during those 90 days.

A Sephora spokeswoman said the site suffered from technical difficulties, but said she did not know the details. The site, which was launched in October 1999 and claims to offer “the largest and most diverse selection of beauty products on the Internet,” draws about 3 million monthly U.S. visitors, according to Quantcast. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to a super-sized E-Commerce site (Quantcast says sees 217 million monthly U.S. visits and has about 75 million monthly U.S. visits) but about the same as other mid-level fashion/apparel retailers such as, which, according to Quantcast, has about 3.2 million monthly U.S. visitors and with its 2 million U.S. monthly visitors.

Nevertheless, any site that sees more than a million visits in a month should not be so fragile, poorly designed or left vulnerable to ISP or other network issues.


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