Need to know
- Mosaic Brands aggressively marketed hand sanitisers during the COVID-19 lockdown, playing on fears of product shortages
- CHOICE has heard from many customers yet to receive the product
- When customers have tried to contact Mosaic to check on their shipments, they've been greeted with silence
Mosaic Brands seems to have hit the big time as a retailer of women's clothing.
After a number of acquisitions in recent years, it now boasts an impressive array of fashion outlets, including Millers, W.Lane, Noni B, Rivers, Katies, Autograph, Rockmans, Crossroads and Beme.
Along with a digital presence that's hard to escape, the company operates 1379 stores in Australia and New Zealand and is listed on the stock exchange.
Things haven't been so fabulous for many Mosaic Brands' customers during the COVID-19 crisis
In the 2018–19 financial year, Mosaic's revenue went up 22% to $45.5 million, and it sank a fair chunk of that money into expanding the business.
Mosaic Brands says its purpose as a company is to "help our customers express their love of life by embracing the truth that every occasion is a special occasion worth feeling fabulous for".
But things haven't been so fabulous for many Mosaic Brands' customers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Pivoting to COVID-19 hygiene
In mid-March, as most of us retreated to our homes to arrest the spread of COVID-19, Mosaic put fashion on hold and jumped into the PPE (personal protection equipment) market in a big way.
In the weeks that followed, CHOICE received numerous tip-offs from consumers who'd been swept up by Mosaic's panicky marketing campaign, featuring hand sanitisers and other protective goods, including face masks.
All expressed their dismay at not receiving the products they had bought at the company's urging.
The ad copy played on fears of shortages and encouraged hoarding
The ad copy played on fears of shortages and encouraged hoarding, with language such as "stock up now before it's gone", "limited stock, shop now", and, worst of all, "stock up and stay safe".
Mosaic wasn't the only business looking to cash in on the high demand for these products, but its online marketing juggernaut was one of the most visible.
Mosaic brands jumped on the hand sanitiser bandwagon as the country went into COVID-19 lockdown, but failed to deliver the goods.
Orders still unfulfilled
It's one thing to jump on the hand sanitiser bandwagon looking to shore up revenue; it's another to never actually deliver the goods.
The Australian Consumer Law says that "when a business accepts your payment for products or services they must supply them to you within the timeframe they have indicated or if no time was specified, within a reasonable time".
Many of the Mosaic ads we've seen promised delivery in seven days.
Based on what we've heard from Mosaic Brands customers, it looks very much like the company over-promised and under-delivered on its COVID-19 products, perhaps because it wasn't prepared for the success of its cynical ad blitz.
And when the supply chain broke down, Mosaic Brands went silent.
I can see from the Millers Facebook page that I am just one of many that have paid money for goods and their orders have not been honouredMosaic Brands customer, Cherie
On 13 May, Cherie told us, "I ordered and paid upfront for $118 worth of sanitiser from this group. I have not received the goods nor have I been able to contact them via phone or email. I can see from the Millers Facebook page that I am just one of many that have paid money for goods and their orders have not been honoured."
On 18 May, Kaye got in touch with a similar tale.
"I received Millers' message promoting hand sanitiser and wipes in March. I ordered some on 11 April and still haven't received the delivery. The phone calls were never picked up and emails were not answered. I found that they have slashed the price now for these products and the ones I bought are more expensive."
Also on 18 May, Barbara told us, "I purchased hand gel through Katie's, thinking it was a reputable company. That was on 19 March 2020 and I still haven't received it. I cannot contact them at all. Phone calls have a message saying the message bank is full. Or I'm on hold for ages then they hang up. I cannot speak to a human.
"A mobile number on the website actually belongs to an elderly lady with obvious breathing problems and is in no way connected to this company. Emails are useless as well.
"So, it appears that this has been a scam. A pity, as I have never purchased in this way before. In my email I have asked for them for a refund of nearly $60, as this product is now widely available to the public.
"Since my order, I have had new emails saying 'order now and delivery in 7 days'. So disappointing."
A mobile number on the website actually belongs to an elderly lady with obvious breathing problems and is in no way connected to this companyMosaic Brands customer, Barbara
On 22 May, we heard from yet another disgruntled Mosaic Brands customer:
"I purchased ten bottles of hand sanitiser from Miller's online, which they marketed directly to me via email on 3 April. I have an account as I buy clothes for my 88-year-old mother from them. Seven weeks later and there's still been no delivery. I have emailed them through the Miller site and Noni B corporate site four times. No response, though they did acknowledge receipt of the email.
"I've rung them 10 times now. Each time it goes to voicemail and then no response. I sent a message to their Facebook page. No response. You can't lodge a Google review and they won't respond to any communication. They aren't on Twitter.
"What can I do now? I just want a refund now. There is no shortage of hand sanitiser."
I've rung them 10 times now. Each time it goes to voicemail and then no response. I sent a message to their Facebook page. No response. You can't lodge a Google review and they won't respond to any communication. They aren't on TwitterMosaic Brands customer
These are just a few examples of the many emails we've received along the same lines.
And Mosaic Brands' customers aren't the only ones who've run into a brick wall when trying to contact Mosaic.
CHOICE has sent multiple emails to various Mosaic email addresses in recent weeks.
Mosaic Brands: 'We apologise, your products are coming'
When we finally got a reply, it was far from reassuring. The explanations for non-delivery of product were shaky at best.
"There were delays due to the enormous increase in online orders and the high volume of parcels," a man we'll describe as a spokesperson told us.
(He said he regularly speaks on behalf of Mosaic Brands, but wasn't part of the company and demurred at being described as a PR person.)
"It's just one of the side effects of the pandemic, unfortunately," the spokesperson said.
Restrictions on imports was apparently another factor. "Quite a lot of our products are coming from overseas," the spokesperson said, though he couldn't confirm whether hand sanitiser was one of them.
It's just one of the side effects of the pandemic, unfortunatelyMosaic Brands spokesperson
"However, they're pretty well caught up now and the delayed orders have shipped," the spokesperson added, saying that orders placed up to a month ago should be arriving soon.
When asked about orders placed in March that hadn't been received, the spokesperson said "certainly something has gone wrong there".
The explanation for why customers have not been able to get in touch seemed the least credible.
The explanation for why customers have not been able to get in touch seemed the least credible
While repeated attempts to contact a Mosaic Brands store have gotten customers nowhere, the company says it's doing the best it can.
"The number of inquiries has increased enormously, and the call centre hasn't been able to cope with the volume. That's my understanding," the spokesperson said. "Mosaic Brands apologises to all our customers for the delays."
Flog the product, safety be damned
One current Mosaic Brands employee (whom we'll call Alex) told CHOICE that events behind the scenes at Mosaic as the COVID-19 lockdown took effect were nothing to be proud of.
Responding to our story on Mosaic's panic marketing blitz, Alex initially contacted us on 21 March, saying, "I wanted to make you aware that they are also making us call customers every morning, firstly asking them if they are okay as we haven't seen them in a while, but then telling them about promotions we have in store. A lot of us are not doing it as it is so wrong."
I think it's disgusting that they make us call customers. Most of us felt very uncomfortable with this and many didn't do itMosaic Brands employee
Alex explained more recently that Mosaic Brands customers can opt in or out of marketing calls from the company, but that Mosaic was asking them to call people on a list that didn't indicate their choice.
"It was literally everyone on the database, whether they had opted in or out," Alex says. "I think it's disgusting that they make us call customers. Most of our customers are old people; they don't want to be told to come into a shop and buy things. Most of us felt very uncomfortable with this and many didn't do it."
Have you been affected by this issue? If so, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.