Staying true to its mission to become the most sustainable supermarket in Australia, Coles vowed to no longer give away its widely popular plastic toys, also known as the Little Shop collectables, in all of its stores, including West End.
The retail giant launched The Little Shop in 2018 as part of its marketing campaign, wherein customers could get miniature replicas of iconic household brands including Vegemite, Nutella, Weet-Bix, and Tim Tams for every $30 spent at the checkout.
It was followed by another line of mini replicas in 2019 featuring plastic fruit or vegetable toys as part of its Stikeez campaign to encourage Australians to eat more fruit and vegetables and “make healthy eating fun for the whole family.”
Coles’ Little Shop was a huge success, helping to lift the company’s sales by 5% in the first quarter of 2019. There were even Facebook groups created for trading the replicas whilst there were people who sold the rarest items for hundreds of dollars on eBay. The Little Shop case and a shopping trolley, for instance, were sold for $400 each, approximately ten times the price than availing it at the supermarket.
‘Together to Zero’
Coles commenced ‘Together to Zero’ in July 2021, highlighting their aspiration towards zero waste, zero emissions and zero hunger and encourages all Australians to work together to ensure Australia is a better place for future generations. It was first unveiled in March 2021, when Coles announced emissions targets including a commitment to be 100% powered by renewable electricity by the end of 2025.
Coles Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Ronson said while collectible toy programs like Little Shop and Stikeez have been popular with customers in the past, they no longer align with Coles’ sustainability ambitions or with customers’ preferences and priorities.
“Coles has been in the lives and homes of Australians for more than 100 years and our unique position in Australia comes with responsibility,” Ms Ronson said.
“As part of our Together to Zero mission, we’ve been reviewing our marketing campaigns through a sustainability lens. While very popular, we must listen to our customers who say their priorities are changing,” she said.
Based on Coles’ recent survey of 9,000 customers, reducing waste to landfill and plastic packaging was the number one concern when it comes to environmental issues in retail, with 69% of those surveyed saying it was of high importance to them.
“We know that customers will understand the need to ensure our campaigns are more sustainable for future generations,” she said.
Coles has stopped selling single-use plastic tableware including cups, plates, bowls, straws and cutlery. Additionally, in March, Coles announced a joint feasibility study to determine the benefits of a local advanced recycling facility in Victoria. Advanced recycling offers new life to old soft plastic by turning it back into oil which can be used to produce new soft plastic food packaging.
It has also removed 31 million soaker pads from meat trays this year. The company is planning to use packaging made from 100% Recycled PET a sustainable solution that also requires less energy to manufacture per kilogram than virgin PET, further contributing to a decrease in the environmental footprint.
Despite ditching their Little Shop collectables, Coles promised that they will continue to explore reward programs that inspire and offer value to customers, such as the recent MasterChef cookware campaign which provides practical items for customers to use in their homes, or more sustainable items such as last year’s popular Little Treehouse book series made from FSC certified paper.