Advertised product not for sale

Rants from an angry (yet well-informed) shopper

Eric Fergusson
Director, Retail Services

With more than 10 years experience launching new categories, trading roles and strategy consulting for major brands in the retail industry, Eric's retail pedigree places him firmly at the forefront of eCommerce evolution.

His background includes senior strategy focussed roles with Shop Direct Group and OC&C and clients such as Abel and Cole, Jimmy Choo and The Container Store. Since joining eCommera, Eric has delivered strategic and operational commerce plans for clients including Holland & Barratt, Arla Foods and Jaeger.

Advertised product not for sale

If, like me, you received the Sunday Times last weekend, you may well have enjoyed the luxurious J.Crew Spring / Summer supplement enclosed. Within this thick, editorial-rich, prep-enthused fashion collection was a navy blue linen suit. Also, at the back of the magazine, was a 20% off voucher. Successfully primed for purchase, I went to the J.Crew website (disappointingly still a poor localised version of the US parent – but I’ll save grumbles of that for another day) but I couldn’t find the product. First I browsed suits, then I searched 'blue linen suit' and finally, in a last-ditch attempt, I even searched the product code. No joy.

Thinking it odd that a brand as successful as J.Crew would have committed the cardinal sin of committing scarce marketing spend for products that customers can’t buy, I dropped them a note. With prompt and polite response, I was informed that these products would be released either on the 8th or the 30th of March.

How can this still happen? Why are brands still spending hundreds of thousands of pounds promoting a product that is not purchasable? When Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger are enabling new collections to be bought from the catwalk, it is shocking that brands are still unable to coordinate marketing activities with product availability.

A primary reason behind this (and other) catastrophic marketing slip-ups, is that brands are yet to truly embrace the customer-centric approach. Teams are working in silos - marketing is not talking to operations, or the other way around. Once these lines of communication are opened internally and the focus is dedicated entirely to the customer's needs and expectations, brands will discover the return on marketing investment will soar.

J.Crew is not alone, it's a battle faced by many of our high street brands - they know where their issues lie, but they aren't quite sure how to fix them. And knowing how difficult it is to get this right, am I going to go back to the J.Crew website on 8th March (and possibly again on 30th) to buy that suit...? Only time will tell.