Garden centre chain receives 100 complaints after its Christmas brochure suggests men should make the woman in their life "feel special" with the laundry item.
Equal rights groups have been up in arms about after a clothesline was depicted in Hillier's recent Christmas brochure as the perfect gift for a woman.
The £44.99 Vento rotary clothesline is included in the four-page brochure with the headline "Make her feel special with a clothesline this Christmas".
The tongue in cheek advert resulted in around 100 complaints from customers, forcing managers at the award-winning garden centre to admit that the joke was probably "ill advised".
However, Hillier business development manager said in a comment to the Telegraph that many of the customer complaints "contained an element of humour" and most were simply checking that the inclusion was meant as a joke.
He added: "In hindsight, it is out of context and could be misinterpreted as derogatory to women. We were not intending to promote gender stereotypes but acknowledge that some people have taken it that way and for them it is a serious issue."
The brochure has already been distributed by Royal Mail to around 900,000 homes and cannot be recalled but Hillier has apologised for any offence caused.