Coles relaunches plastic check-out toys

Tracey Ferrier
(Australian Associated Press)


As some Aussie families strive for a plastic-free July others will be rushing to Coles to bag new plastic trinkets for their kids.

The supermarket chain is about to start handing out a new range of miniature grocery items it says are collector items, meant to be kept and passed down through the generations.

From Wednesday every $30-spend will entitle shoppers to one mini grocery item, and they can even get plastic-lined display cases to store them in.

In a statement last week, Coles said it was bringing back it’s “incredibly cute” Little Shop promotion because the first one had been nothing short of a “phenomenon”.

Some Coles shoppers are ecstatic at the prospect of adding to their existing collections with perhaps a tiny plastic replica of Dynamo Professional Washing Liquid or a mini squeeze-bottle of Leggo’s pizza sauce.

Like the Twitter user that goes by the handle of @DrawnOutDad, who said he was really hoping there’d be a mini Jarritos Mexican Cola in the collection. Sadly not.

There’s high-level excitement too from the chain’s chief marketing officer Lisa Ronson, who says the first Little Shop campaign last year “brought to life the traditional hobby of collecting enjoyed by all generations”.

The retailer won’t reveal how many extra sales it expects to make on the back of the second promotion.

But in the final half of 2018, after the first campaign, it recorded a 2.0 per cent lift in revenue to $20.35 billion, largely due to a 3.1 per cent growth in supermarket sales boosted by Little Shop.

However not everyone is feeling the Little Shop love, including Australian families who have signed up for Plastic Free July – a global movement that encourages households to refuse single-use plastics for a day, a week, all of July, or forever.

Supporters are incensed by the timing of the Coles announcement, which also comes about a month after Coles congratulated itself for diverting 1.7 billion lightweight single-use plastic bags from landfill since removing them from check outs a year prior.

“Wow.. Coles.. just wow.. You have just proved you really do not care for our children’s future by bringing these so called ‘collectables’ back,” Sara Coates wrote in launching a petition urging customers to boycott Coles.

So far it’s attracted more than 11,300 signatures.

Coles does point out that the soft plastic wrappers its Little Shop items come in can be recycled when returned to collection points at supermarkets.

And Coles has certainly not been alone in the plastic promotions arena, with rival Woolworths having had its fair share in the past.

But Woolies’ is having a red hot go at going one up on Coles this time round, with a plastic-free range of collectibles to be launched in its stores on Wednesday.

Its series of Lion King-themed pencil toppers/finger puppets are made from responsible sourced paper, and are fully recyclable via yellow kerbside bins, or in-store where they’ll be given to a partner to make outdoor products such as fences.

Meanwhile, Coles has released in-house research to back its claim that Little Shop items are being kept not dumped.

It said its insights team surveyed 2026 Coles customers online, asking if they still had their Little Shop minis from last year, with 94 per cent saying they still had them or had given them to others who were collecting.


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