JCrew Site Slows To A Crawl As Extensive New Features Launch

When the $1.3 billion JCrew apparel chain launched its new Web site on June 29, it was the culmination of a 2-year deployment effort. Seems that customers may have to wait a bit longer to fully use those new capabilities, as the site quickly crashed and has suffered significant slowdowns ever since.

On Tuesday (July 8), the tenth day of the problematic performance and with a "our Web site and call center are running slowly as we fine-tune the improvements" apology replacing JCrew's homepage, JCrew spokesperson Margot Brunelle-Fooshee said the problems are still slowing things down and the associated disclaimer "will probably be up until Friday" (July 11).

The 260-store chain's site changes include real-time inventory shopping carts, an online catalog interface (clicking on a picture in the catalog will display an option to add it to a cart) plus a new zoom feature and enhanced search abilities.

JCrew CIO Steve Dee said the slowdowns had been expected, because of the extent of the changes.

"Something this complex and this far-reaching has a lot of different variables in it, so we did anticipate that there would be periodic performance questions, because there's just so many layers to what you're dealing with," Dee said. "We serve images out to a third party provider, so everything needs to be copied down to them. You might find an image or Flash here or there that might take some time or might have even been wrong and you have to reload that. And every time it does that, it has to be cached out to that service provider. So they come back and they hit our server and they pull. So those were some of the periodic pieces that we found."

The CIO said the problems were not extraordinary. "You're going to run into some bugs when every system goes live," Dee said. "So we had to put out bug fixes. Those fixes often require that we would have to take down a server here or a server there, causing us not to be at full capacity."