Rite Aid, the nation’s third largest drug store chain, doesn’t have sale products that are advertised in its flyer available for purchase nearly 80% of the time, according to a survey involving 1,100 visits to 220 stores.
The survey by a coalition of unions released today showed that at least one of the sale items was consistently not available and as many as one in five advertised specials could not be found in the chain’s New York City area stores. Of particular concern to the union group is the impact the failure to stock products is having on the more than 45 million members of Rite Aid’s wellness+ loyalty program. Rite Aid has lost money for each of the past 18 quarters, noted Matthew Painter, spokesman for the Change to Win union coalition.
“One of the main incentives for wellness+ membership is access to weekly sales advertised in the store’s circulars, which makes sale item availability important for the success of the program,” Painter said in an email. “Research has shown that product availability is a key component of building trust and loyalty with shoppers and regular outages diminish customer satisfaction.
“Inventory outages cause billions of dollars of lost sales for retailers every year, and research has found that when customers do not find a product they are looking for on hand, the retailer loses that sale 40% of the time.”
Many states have requirements in their consumer laws for stores to have a reasonable amount of inventory of advertised items in stock, regardless of whether rain checks are made available. The reason: to prevent stores from enticing consumers into their stores with phantom offers in an attempt to get them to buy higher-priced alternatives once they’re in the door. Other chains, including Sears, have from time to time been the target of complaints by shoppers disappointed that certain sale items couldn’t be found on store shelves. A survey of retail stores by Consumer Reports released this month showed that one of the biggest gripes of shoppers is going to the shelves and seeing that the item they wanted was out of stock.
Rite Aid disputed the findings of the union group and said its records show it has fared far better in terms of making sure sale items are available to shoppers.
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“While we are disappointed to hear of any out of stock situations, it is difficult for us to accurately assess and comment on these findings, because the union federation which conducted this survey did not contact us regarding this issue to share their results and methodology with us,” Rite Aid spokeswoman Susan Henderson said in a statement.
She said the company’s records show advertised items are in stock more than 96% of the time.
“We also continue to invest in initiatives to further strengthen our inventory management. If an out of stock situation occurs, we have a formal ‘raincheck’ policy in place that enables the customer to purchase the currently unavailable product at the advertised rate when supplies are back in stock,” Henderson said. “While we take a ‘never satisfied’ approach, we believe Rite Aid customers — including our more than 47 million enrolled wellness+ members – are responding favorably to the initiatives we have undertaken to improve our retail execution and strengthen the customer experience in our stores. “
If you go to a store that consistently doesn’t have advertised sale items in stock, file a complaint with your state attorney general or consumer affairs office. You can find a list of them here.