I’m a frustrated customer. I drove to a local Kohl’s store today to purchase the Men’s Nike Air Tri-D II running shoes that they advertised in their 10/1 – 10/11 sale catalog. The shoe department at that store was a disaster. There were very few men’s athletic shoes on display and the shelves were in disarray. The shoe I wanted and that they had gone to the expense of advertising, was not even on display. I asked someone to check stock and the answer came back that they only had a size 8-1/2 in the back room.
Years ago, retailers used to practice a fraudulent tactic called “Bait & Switch” in which a desirable item was advertised at an attractive price, but in reality, there was little or no inventory to support the offer. When the customer arrived at the store to purchase the item, they would be offered an alternative item which often provided the retailer with higher margin. There are Federal Trade Commission laws that make that practice illegal. If a retailer knowingly advertises a product that has limited availability, they have to say so in the ad (“quantities limited”). I understand that sometimes operational issues come up which can result in advertised products not being available and I’m assuming that is what happened in this case. Nevertheless, it was a frustrating waste of an hour of my time.
Multichannel Retailing to the Rescue (or NOT!)
I wanted the shoes to take on a trip this week, but settled for ordering them on Kohls.com so I could take advantage of the additional discount offered to Kohl’s Charge customers. A search of the site took me right to the shoe, but when I went to put it in my cart I saw that it was only available in sizes (wait for it….) 8 and 8-1/2!
I could understand a single store in a 1000 store chain not having a particular advertised item, but to not have enough product available through a national website is a big problem. Kohl’s Merchandising team has to know about this. Any merchant responsible for a line of products checks to be sure they have sufficient stock chain-wide before advertising something. In this situation a good approach would have been to put a note on the product detail page acknowledging the shortage of inventory and apologizing for the inconvenience.
This is a great example of a really bad customer experience. Kohl’s tells me to “Expect Great Things”, but based on interactions in two different channels (web and store), I “expect” that I won’t be shopping at Kohl’s in the future.