A TV ad for a supermarket featured large on-screen text that stated "THE BIG SALE" and "Amazing savings on big brands". A number of products were shown at reduced prices, including a Dyson vacuum cleaner. On-screen text stated, "... Dyson DC30 Handheld White £200 £99. Starts Boxing Day. Hurry whilst stocks last. Plus 100s of other great offers. Ends 29.12.13. Delivery charges online. Selected stores". Further large on-screen text stated, "Starts Boxing Day. Hurry whilst stocks last. Plus 100s of other great offers".
Six complainants, who were unable to take advantage of the offer at various stores, challenged whether there was sufficient availability of the Dyson DC30 Handheld White at the advertised price.
Tesco Stores Ltd said before the promotion commenced they considered they had sufficient stock levels to meet customer demand for the sale period. They noted that the ad included a message to customers on screen in large and small font to "Hurry while stocks last". The on-screen text also stated that the stock would be limited to "selected stores". Tesco Stores believed this communicated to consumers that stock could possibly run out before the end of the promotion.
Tesco Stores said 1,891 units of the product were sent to 209 stores across the UK and each store received nine units on average. Of the total in-store stock, 31.5% was sold by the end of 26 December and 71.8% of stock had sold by the end of the promotion on 29 December. They noted that 16 stores sold out on Boxing Day. They said 247 units were in stock online through Tesco Direct prior to the commencement of the sale period, that 33.2% of the total online stock sold on 26 December and all online stock had sold by the end of 28 December. They said given the on-screen messages in the ad, they hoped customers would appreciate that sale stock might sell out by the final day of the sale, particularly where the sale price was especially low.
Tesco Stores noted that one of the complainants was advised that there was no stock in any Gloucestershire stores, but said they must have been misadvised, as all three Gloucestershire stores carried stock for the sale period from 26 to 29 December. Tesco Stores said they were sorry for any negative customer experiences, but they were likely due to isolated human errors rather than business-wide stock inadequacies.
Clearcast pointed out that predicting the popularity of specific items often required a certain amount of flexibility and guesswork. They noted that 28% of stock remained unsold and could have been distributed to areas where they sold out, so the item was still available at the end of the promotion, just not in stores where there was a particular demand.
They understood that as it was a good offer, Tesco Stores tried to manage expectations in the ad. They said the short nature of the promotion and the urgency of the message communicated that the product was of limited supply and customers needed to act quickly to avoid disappointment.
Clearcast said Tesco Stores had made a business decision about how best to distribute their stock informed by previous similar promotions. They noted that it was not in the best interests of Tesco Stores or their customers to advertise a promotion and still be left with stock whilst receiving complaints about lack of availability.
We noted that some stores had sold out of the product before the promotion ended and some consumers had therefore been unable to purchase the product. However, we also noted that Tesco Stores had taken in additional stock in order to meet the increased demand they knew the ad would drive and had distributed this stock evenly in their stores. We acknowledged Clearcast's point that it was often difficult to predict the popularity of items during sales and noted that Tesco Stores had taken steps to ensure the ad made clear that stocks were limited. We understood that Tesco Stores were left with stock at the end of the sale, which suggested they had made a reasonable overall estimate of how much stock was required overall. We therefore concluded that Tesco Stores had showed that they had ensured sufficient availability of the product in their stores and that the ad was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.28 3.28 Broadcasters must be satisfied that advertisers have made a reasonable estimate of demand. (Availability), but did not find it to be in breach.
No further action necessary.