eBay gets off to rough holiday shopping start

EBay is kicking off this key holiday shopping week with credits for sellers affected by a search outage over the weekend.

EBay is kicking off this key holiday shopping week with credits for sellers affected by a search outage over the weekend.

The company on Saturday suffered a search outage "due to errors in some of our backend systems." A search on products would lead to an error message or blank page. Six hours later service was restored mostly and the company said "we will be issuing full credits for all affected items for this title search outage."

Almost 24 hours later search was fully restored, including secondary search features such as color, inventory and clothing size.

The outage comes amid a critical time for sellers who are listing products for what could be a big shopping week. And while the outage for eBay isn't material to earnings it does make you wonder if the auction site is ready to roll when crunch time. And crunch time comes a week from today on "Cyber Monday," the next workday after Black Friday when e-commerce is supposed to ramp up.

More importantly, eBay is scrapping for dollars in what may be a slow-growing e-commerce pie. Deutsche Bank analyst Jateel Patel cited weak e-commerce data for October from comScore as evidence that the back half of the fourth quarter will be critical for online retailers. Given the easy comparisons to a year ago---when the financial world was ending---e-commerce should be accelerating into the holidays.

Typically the second week of November (last week) represents the first ramp week for the e-commerce holiday season, culminating with growing momentum through December 21st. In speaking to several e-commerce company executives, we believe that the e-commerce sales ramp has been a bit slower than anticipated, leaving the industry to a major ramp between the Sunday post-Thanksgiving through Dec. 21st.

Simply put, eBay can't afford to have even brief outages as it competes for wallet share with Amazon.

Here's a look at the e-commerce growth rates to present: