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Retailers Are Losing the Software Talent Wars

Retailers struggle to hire quality developers as online sales grow

For a decade, Target outsourced its website operations to Amazon.com. The Minneapolis retail giant began preparing two years ago to take control of the site when the deal with Amazon expired this August. Three weeks after the switch, the site crashed. It went down again a month later—and then again, and again. In the three months since Target took control, the site has crashed six times, making it the glitchiest major U.S. e-commerce site, according to website monitor AlertBot. Even when the site is up and running, shoppers complain about failed checkouts and gift registries. Spokeswoman Morgan O’Murray says Target is “working diligently to ensure that the site is operating efficiently for the holiday season.”

Target’s Web woes are only the most obvious symptom of a big problem afflicting e-commerce: The dearth of talented engineers. Across all of tech, the job market is tight, with too many openings chasing too few people with technical skills. Retailers have an especially hard time finding qualified engineers because they lack the panache and pocketbooks of Silicon Valley companies. “There’s no question that things are a lot sexier going to Google or some startup,” says Greg Buzek, president of retail technology consultant IHL Group.