Coles dumps toy collectibles campaigns such as Little Shop to clean up green image

Headshot of Daniel Newell
Daniel NewellThe West Australian
Email Daniel Newell
The Little Shop promotions offered 30 miniatures of everyday grocery items.
Camera IconThe Little Shop promotions offered 30 miniatures of everyday grocery items.

Highly popular Coles promotions that swelled the grocery giant’s coffers, set off an online trading frenzy, sparked eBay bidding wars and raised the ire of almost every single environmental group in Australia have been consigned to the recycling bin.

The supermarket behemoth today announced it will scrap collectible toy campaigns such as Little Shop and Stikeez in favour of promotions that offer customers more practical, sustainable items.

Coles has repeatedly come under fire from green groups when launching collectibles campaigns that offer shoppers plastic toys or miniature versions of popular grocery items for each $30 they spend. The groups claimed most of the toys would eventually end up in landfill.

The Little Shop promotions were a huge money spinner for the company ahead of its $20 billion split from WA-based conglomerate Wesfarmers in late 2018, and helped give it an edge over rival Woolworths in the running store wars.

Its first eight-week Little Shop promotion helped Coles outperform Woolworths for the first time in two years with like-for-like first-quarter sales growth of 5 per cent. Analysts said it added $11 million to Coles’ profit before interest and tax.

It also sparked an online buy, swap and sell frenzy. Just three days after the release of the first Little Shop items — which includes 30 miniature collectables including Vegemite, Tim Tams and Weetbix — sellers were asking up to $999 for a complete set and collector’s case.

Today, full sets on eBay are selling for less than $20.

The Coles Little Shop collection sparked an online buy, swap and sell craze.
Camera IconThe Coles Little Shop collection sparked an online buy, swap and sell craze. Credit: METHODE

Coles said such promotions no longer aligned with its environmental and sustainability philosophy or customer preferences.

“While very popular, we must listen to our customers who say their priorities are changing,” Ms Ronson said.

“In a recent survey of 9000 of our customers, reducing waste to landfill and plastic packaging was the number one concern when it comes to environmental issues in retail, with 69 per cent 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.”

Coles said it would continue to explore reward programs that offer practical items for use in the home or more sustainable items such as last year’s Little Treehouse book series made from FSC certified paper.

The toys helped Coles gain an edge over rival Woolworths.
Camera IconThe toys helped Coles gain an edge over rival Woolworths. Credit: Nicole Garmston/METHODE

The move comes just weeks after it stopped selling single-use plastic cups, plates, bowls, straws and cutlery at 2500 outlets, claiming it will divert 1500 tonnes worth of plastic from landfill each year

The announcement also coincides with the official launch of a new marketing campaign that sets out Coles’ zero waste and emissions ambitions.

Together to Zero was first unveiled in March, when the company announced emissions targets including a commitment to be 100 per cent powered by renewable electricity by mid-2025.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails