Recently, I tried to redeem a promotion from Penningtons in a combined Penningtons Addition-Elle store (1PLUS store) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. While shopping in the Fall of 2011, I made a purchase in a Penningtons store. Because my sales totaled $100, I was given a coupon for $40 to redeem when I spent $80 during the specified period in January-February 2012. While there are many individual stores that are either Penningtons or Addition-Elle, the parent company is the same (Reitmans) and, as is the case in the Halifax location, sometimes both stores operate as a single location. However, at this location I was told that I could not redeem my coupon because the merchandise I selected was not Penningtons merchandise. The problem wasn't that I was in the wrong store, but that what I chose to buy wasn't a line carried by the store offering the promotion. Had I been in a single Penningtons store there would have been no restrictions on what I could use to redeem the coupon. However, this is one large store that carries merchandise from both Penningtons and Addition Elle. After spending time shopping, picking out what I like, trying things on and finally deciding what to buy I was told I couldn't redeem my coupon. In effect, there is no convenience awarded to the customer if the lines between stores are simply blurred, but we still are forced to shop according to what each store carries. As a customer I am not spending time looking at all the labels on the clothing itself, especially within a single store.
In addition to promotions offered in store, each business also offers a customer reward card, which can be presented at the time of purchase to accumulate reward points based on total amount spent. At the 1PLUS location at the Halifax Annex Shopping Centre, there is no distinction between the two stores, but even in individual stores each store will accept either reward card, and reward points can be redeemed at either store. The website lists both Penningtons and Addition Elle and allows you to shop online at either. I think if they are operating as a single store then it is imperative that they also honour the promotions in similar ways. To do it any other way is misleading and unfair marketing practice. That, in itself, is cause for concern, but add that to the fact that these stores essentially have a monopoly on the plus-size clothing market, in Nova Scotia at least, the customer appears to be left with no other options.
My personal dissatisfaction was made greater by the fact that when I expressed my displeasure in the store, the sales clerk directed me to the phone number for Penningtons where she assured me I would be able to speak to someone in customer service. This turned out not to be the case. My only option was to leave a message, which upon attempting to do, I was cut off. So, with no other option, I emailed customer service at Penningtons (where the promotion was from) and copied it to customer service at Addition Elle outlining the above complaint. After 10 days, I received a response from the customer service at Addition Elle telling me that in fact the stores were separate businesses and I wouldn't be able to redeem my coupon. In addition, I was told that the rewards cards and promotions were separate and that while I could use either reward card at combined 1PLUS stores like the Halifax Annex Shopping Centre in Nova Scotia, the merchandise would have to "concord with the banner associated to the coupon being used and points would be applied to the card presented."
This, however, has not been my experience in stores throughout Nova Scotia. I have found that Penningtons and Addition Elle single stores will still accept a reward card for either business. In fact, on my recent trip to the 1PLUS store, the sales representative told me that it didn't matter which card I collected my points on because the points would be combined and when I reached the point to receive a reward, a gift certificate would be sent which could be redeemed at either store. Perhaps it is not only the customers who are confused by this practice, but salespeople as well.
If the company is intent on operating separate businesses, why do they share store space and even websites? I realize that Reitmans is also part of this family of stores, yet the Retitmans stores remain distinct entities and I would not expect that they should honour promotions of clothing lines they do not carry. This is not the case with the Penningtons/Addition Elle 1PLUS stores. If the stores operate in a single store space with no clear delineation between store brands, it is an unfair marketing practice to advertise promotions that are specific to one of two stores. The onus should be on the business, not the salesperson and not the customer, to clearly define such promotions. Furthermore, the fact that the promotion under discussion was a Penningtons promotion and the response I received was from customer service at Addition Elle only serves to support my point that the company is blurring the lines between the stores - at the expense of the customer.