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Barnes & Noble booked for running out of £29 Nooks

ASA raps retailer for deep discount that only lasted a few days

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Struggling bookshop Barnes & Noble has been taken to task by the UK's advertising watchdog for running out of stocks of its ebook reader, the Nook, just a few days after slashing prices down to £29 in a nationwide campaign.

B&N started an ad campaign on 24 April that touted the whopping discount from £79 to £29 for the ereader alongside the tagline "Fact not Fiction". However, potential customers quickly found they weren't able to get their hands on the newly cheap slablet and the firm was forced to pull the ad by 3 May.

The company had totally underestimated the demand for an ereader under 30 quid, assuming that the promotion would only up sales by 10 or 20 times their usual level. Instead, a rush on the Nooks pushed sales to 120 times the normal rate.

A prospective buyer complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that they hadn't been able to get their hands on a Nook at any of the nine retailers mentioned in the ad, which included John Lewis, Currys, PC World, Asda, Sainsbury's, Very, Foyles, Blackwell's and Argos. Although B&N claimed that stocks had not been fully depleted everywhere until after the complaint was made, the Advertising Standards Authority said the ad had to be pulled.

"Promoters must be able to demonstrate that they had made a reasonable estimate of the likely response and that they were capable of meeting it," the ASA said in its ruling. "Barnes & Noble had based their estimate on recent data for UK sales of e-readers. However, we considered that they should have based their estimate on the response rate to a previous similar offer of the same or a similar product." ®

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