The Coles plastic collectables in the shape of miniature supermarket products, which are part of a new Coles campaign, are being sold online at massive markups.
Individual collectables that are essentially freebies – handed out at random to customers for every $30 spent – can be found on eBay priced up to $1000 for the complete set in a display case.
The New Daily found new listings emerging on Gumtree every five to 10 minutes throughout Wednesday.
The Little Shop range includes mini replicas of branded Coles products sponsored by the featured brands including Milo, Vegemite, Nutella and Weet-Bix, with customers receiving a single item at random for every $30 spent on groceries.
The promotion launched last month on the back of widespread efforts to reduce plastic waste in retail and amid backlash over Coles backflipping on its plastic bag ban.
Deakin University’s Dr Paul Harrison, whose research focuses on the effect of marketing on consumer behaviour, said the campaign was a bid to claw back customers from Woolworths and Aldi into Coles stores.
“Coles may withdraw the campaign soon so it may be that the collectables become rare,” he said.
“Coles is a mass market business. This is a way of trying to get customers into their stores, and pulling them away from Aldi and Woolworths.
“Both Woolworths and Coles are scared of Aldi. But there’s a lot of pressure on Coles at the moment because it’s going to be split from Wesfarmers.”
Collectables have won over consumers before
Australians have been met with collectable promotions in the past and some of these campaigns have been incredibly popular with shoppers, particularly children.
Retail expert Dr Louise Grimmer said Woolworths led a similar promotion with Marvel heroes super discs.
“This involved collecting a number of coloured plastic discs each featuring a different superhero or villain as well as a plastic collectable storage folder,” she said.
“Woolworths also had a collectable plastic domino promotion tied in with popular children’s movie characters such as Toy Story and Cars.”
She said that even if the Coles promotion only entices customers from Woolworths for the duration of the promotion, it would still be viewed as a positive investment for Coles.
“The power of these campaigns is in the use of the ‘blind bag’ because consumers never know which item they are going to receive,” she said.
“This keeps shoppers coming back for more until they complete the full collection.”
Is this a smart marketing move?
While these collectables are enjoyed by a small portion of the market and being priced highly on eBay, Dr Harrison said this was not necessarily an indicator of demand.
“The value of these kinds of collectables in the long run tends to not be very high,” he said.
“We also know from research that these kind of campaigns don’t have a huge impact on customer loyalty, which is what Coles is hoping for.
“The two biggest predictors in supermarket choice are location – so which store is closer to where you live regardless of the brand – and how much parking is available.”
Dr Harrison said promotions with a connection to people’s everyday lives or social purpose typically have a greater effect on sales, such as discount coupons and loyalty programs.
A Coles spokeswoman said it was pleased with the customer response to the campaign: “We are overjoyed with how many customers are collecting, swapping and sharing their minis.”