The supermarket was offering premium SKUs including Campo Viejo Tempranillo, Wolf Blass Shiraz and Martini Prosecco in the deal.
But two shoppers visited a number of stores and were unable to buy any of the wines advertised in the deal, so they complained that the ads were misleading because Morrisons did not make a “reasonable estimate of the likely response to the promotion”.
One complainant said the ad was misleading because it did not give an end date for the promotion.
The Advertising Standards Authority upheld all complaints and warned Morrisons “to ensure that they made reasonable estimates of demand for similar promotions in further and that they did not misleadingly omit offer end dates from ads”.
It banned the ads from ever appearing again in that format.
Morrisons said that based on its experience of similar offers it estimated it would sell around 530,000 bottles of wine in the promotional period.
The promotion started on Thursday, May 22, and was intended to run until Saturday, June 1, across 446 stores in England and Wales. It added that it had allowed a contingency stock of 399,000 bottles.
Its monitoring system alerted it to the fact that sales had “taken off exponentially” and some stores reported that they had started to run low on stocks of some wines on the first day.
On May 23 Morrisons decided to withdraw some advertising to limit the exposure of the offer. It arranged for contingency stock to be delivered into stores on May 24. Despite this it said that the demand for the offer was unprecedented and it became clear it would not be able to meet the demand up until the planned offer end date.
Morrisons was unable to source any further stocks of the wines initially included in the offer and it therefore added three more SKUs, including Veluti Shiraz Rose, to the offer, totalling 138,000 bottles. By the end of the offer it had sold more than 1 million bottles of the wines included in the promotion.
But it said that in hindsight that “demand from small traders purchasing the products to resell might have affected the accuracy of the estimate”.
The ASA said: “We noted that Morrisons had taken a number of actions in response to the demand, including adding additional product lines to the offer and ensuring contingency stock was transported to stores, and also gave instructions for the advertising to be withdrawn as soon as they became aware of the stock issue.
“However, we considered that the speed with which the advertised products ran out demonstrated that the estimate of demand was not adequate for the purpose of satisfying the requirements of the code.”
A Morrisons spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with the ASA’s ruling, which we understand was based on only two complaints. We ran a market leading deal, which resulted in unprecedented sales of over a million bottles of wine. Even though our advertising stated ‘subject to availability’ and ‘while stocks last’ we also continued to honour the deal long after allocated promotional stocks ran out, so as not to disappoint our customers.”