The first complaint related to an in-store promotion and offered a ‘free magic hair towel’ with the purchase of certain hair products. Superdrug staff told the complainant that they couldn’t honour the promotion because they did not have any stock of the towels.
Superdrug insisted that they had based demand for the towels on a previous promotion in which 5,566 units were given away. This time, they increased the forecast to 7,000 units. But imported stock arrived late due to strong seas. Stores without stock of the towels were told to offer an alternative gift and Point of Sale material also said that the gift was subject to availability.
The second complaint was for a “free primer with the purchase of two St. Moritz products”. However, when the complainant tried to claim they were told it was out of stock. Superdrug said that they had estimated demand carefully, but because the ‘free’ primer product was already on sale, it was a stock item and would be replenished in the normal way and should never be out of stock. In their defence they claimed that the problem was caused by an IT issue, with the free gift not being added to an online order.
Both complaints were upheld by the ASA on the basis that the CAP Code states that promoters must conduct promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently, and not cause unnecessary disappointment. They found that Superdrug had not achieved this; for the first promotion, they didn’t ensure that there was sufficient stock available throughout the promotional period, and for the second one, they hadn’t worked quickly enough to fix the IT issue, meaning customers missed out.
Crucially, the ASA reiterated that phrases such as ‘Subject to availability’ do not actually relieve promoters of their obligations to deliver the stated items or have a reasonable forecast of demand.