A tweet from Take That star and X Factor judge Gary Barlow ahead of last weekend’s final sent thousands of visitors to online UK sweetshop AQuarterOf.co.uk.
Within seconds of Barlow’s December 9 tweet to his 972,000 fans from @GBarlowOfficial, more than 15,000 had logged on – signalling an unprecedented spike in traffic for the retro sweet specialist, whose wares include classics such as Space Dust, Sherbert Dips, Flying Saucers and Wham bars.
Michael Parker, managing director of A Quarter Of, said: “We had no idea what was going on. There was a sudden massive flood of orders which, on top of Christmas, put a real strain on operations. But we’ve got a great technology team and a great hosting company so we just ploughed on until we got everything done.”
The company’s website has been hosted by iomart Hosting since 2007. Its managing director Sarah Haran said: “The bandwidth graph for A Quarter Of clearly shows the huge spike in visitors to the website, but there were no issues other than the retailer’s staff having to go into overdrive to meet the unexpected demand for Christmas orders.”
That was in contrast to previous Christmas rushes, when the site’s servers had failed under far less traffic. Parker said: “In one instance in the run up to Christmas 2003 the site went down for eight hours and I ended up with an email inbox with 5,000 emails in it. We had to put the phone on automatic answering because we just couldn’t cope.”
So what sweets did the Take That star buy?
“We’re not in a position to say what it was that Gary Barlow ordered from us,” said Parker. “But we are incredibly proud to count him as a fan. Lots of people in the office have been fans of his for years and some of them are still a little bit giddy about the whole thing.
“It’s great to know that even superstars love retro sweets. There’s something about enjoying them which transports you back a much simpler time.”
A Quarter Of recently featured on Nigella Lawson’s website as her ‘sweetshop of choice’, and it also counts MasterChef presenter Gregg Wallace as a fan.
iomart Hosting, a subsidiary of iomart Group, provides managed hosting and cloud services.
Photo: This picture, of Gary Barlow onstage in Sunderland in 2006, is by vagueontheshow and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence.