A regular review of interesting cultural shifts & marketing developments as viewed through the collective lens of the Stancombe Research + Planning Team

Monday, May 27, 2013

Retailer grab for profit OR would madam like to purchase a brown paper bag to carry her shopping?

It is not often we have a rave on the Stancombe blog but today, rave we will! … A couple of days ago, our local Thomas Dux decided to charge their customers 10 cents for a Thomas Dux branded bag to carry purchases home or in our case, back to the agency kitchen.

This initiative has evidently been instigated so that the residents of Paddington (long known for their leftish ideologies and keenness to save the environment and join a protest) are educated on the importance of re-use.  Really, as if we don’t know about reuse already!  Besides, paper consumption levels have declined enormously in our suburb since we all went on-line to consumer media (apologies to Fairfax and News Limited).  

Thomas Dux has missed the point. Thomas Dux is situated in the middle of a shopping drag, in front of a bus stop, near a community school and is used by local businesses and residents to do ‘top-up’, basket shopping i.e. little and often. It is far too expensive and specialised to do a trolley shop.  To be told we must bring our own (Thomas Dux purchased hessian effect) bag, pre-used Thomas Dux branded brown paper bags or pay a penalty to take our (over-priced) shopping home is wrong at some many levels. 

Locals drop into Thomas Dux on the way past the store either when getting off the bus, on the way past the Dux to conduct an errand, visit a local business or associate or when one realises one has forgotten to pick up some milk on the way to or from school pick up or an office meeting.  Spontaneity is the key.  We don’t
know about you but we rarely have shopping bags stuffed into our pockets in case we decide to pop into the local grocer on the way past.

Thomas Dux has a massive negative environmental footprint:  A large proportion of their product range is imported (e.g. Duchy biscuits, French cheeses, Italian cold meats, Turkish dried fruit, New Zealand frozen produce to name a few). Think about the amount of carbon produced just transporting grocery and deli items from one side of the world to the other. Many of the SKUs ranged by Thomas Dux are beautifully presented in exquisitely designed boxes consisting of multiple layers of paper and plastic (excuse me, Mr. Dux, is your hypocrisy showing?)

The Stancombe Series 2013: “What Is The New Normal” did identify a key consumer theme we called ‘Who Pays, Wins’.   This theme identified the insidious move towards a model of user pay in Australia.  The customer is increasing asked by manufacturers and retailers to carry the burden of cost and responsibility. We see this reflected in a wide range of areas: The move towards user-pays education, on-street parking meters, the cost of installing solar panels to generate (and buy back) sustainable energy, increasing compulsory super contributions, and most recently, an increase in the Medicare levy to cover new disability services (can’t argue with that one!).  

Who pays, wins is ‘the new normal’, not so much grass-roots driven movement but something that seems to have crept up on us. 
While we are seeing some resentment rise to the top as a consequence, there’s a visible rise in ‘class-consciousness’ and competitiveness seeping in.  In essence, this is about winners or losers. Ultimately many Australians are starting to understand that those who can afford or prioritise paying for what were once free services will win the game of life. They’ve clicked that if you play the game, you win at your own cost.  If you don’t or can’t, then don’t expect to live life to the fullest or access the best range of services for free.  But does this include such essentials as food and groceries?

We think not.  While people may be happy to ‘play the game’ with education, services, and even sustainable energy – food is an area where people are not keen to play “winners and grinners”.  Mr Dux, forcing people to pay for lovely re-cycled brown paper bags to carry their already pricey food items doesn’t deliver a pay-off.  It seems mean and opportunistic.

The sub-text of this rave is that we don’t buy the idea that the folk at Thomas Dux really care about the environment. The brown paper bags they have offered customers since they opened their doors cost approximately 14 cents each.  

So, madam would not like to buy a brown paper bag to carry her premium-priced shopping.  Based on the outrage being expressed at the checkout, Madam is not alone.

1 comment:

  1. Our Thomas Dux paper checkout bags have become quite iconic with customers. Although our paper checkout bags are recyclable and compostable, they do however have a significant effect on the environment.
    Currently Thomas Dux uses over 65,000 paper checkout bags per week. This equates to almost 3 tonnes of paper, and would fill 21 semi-trailers per year.
    Producing this 3 tonnes of paper each week requires 39 trees, 7.5 barrels of oil, 12,300 KWH of electricity and 95,340 litres of water.
    To reduce this impact on the environment we commenced charging our customers 10 cents for each checkout bag from 21st of May, 2013- in our Paddington store ONLY, as a trial for us to measure what reduction in bag usage is possible. We conducted research in Paddington and Hornsby amongst current Thomas Dux shoppers prior to the trial and shoppers nominated 10c as a fair price to pay for a carry bag. They were also told they could bring in any carry bag instead of paying the charge. Some respondents indicated the charge would change their behaviour and they would bring in their own bags, others were prepared to pay the 10c charge.
    The aim of this trial is to encourage our customers to re-use:
    • Bring in and re-use your own shopping bags, any type of shopping bag or other bags are welcome
    • Bring in and re-use your Thomas Dux shopping bags; paper or jute.
    • Purchase an environmentally friendly Jute Shopping Bags for re-use, these are very strong, long lasting and also biodegradable.

    While we realise that having to purchase shopping bags will be new for Thomas Dux Customers, it is now common practice among many retailers in order to reduce bag consumption and impact on the environment, examples include Target and Aldi.

    In addition many state and local governments are legislating controls on checkout bag use. In South Australia legislation has led to both Woolworths and Coles not providing any checkout bags with customers providing their own shopping bags. In January the Fremantle City Council passed a new law that single-use, non-biodegradable plastic bags are not permitted under any circumstances. Alternative bags (biodegradable bags or bags above a certain thickness) may be offered, but those retailers choosing to do this are required by the new law to charge a minimum of 10 cents per bag.

    Our aim is to reduce our checkout bag use, which in turn reduces the impact on our natural resources, energy consumption, landfill and the environment in general.

    Thomas Dux Grocer is commitment to having the least impact possible on the environment while we continue to provide our customers with a quality food offer and a positive and rewarding shopping experience.

    Some of the key areas where we actively reduce our impact on the environment are:
    • Reducing our Carbon Emissions and effect on Climate Change with the use of energy efficient freezer lighting and non ozone depleting refrigerant and air conditioning gases
    • Where possible sourcing local products for our stores to reduce food miles
    • Recycling our waste such as paper and card board, fats and grease, photo copier cartridges to produce recycled products such as packaging, fertilizers and bio fuels
    • Community Food Contributions to organisations such as OzHarvest, Fareshare and Secondbite to assist in providing meals for people in need. So far we have contributed the equivalent of 129,000 meals to OzHarvest alone.
    • Minimising the use of packaging and checkout bags

    Your understanding and support of this environmental initiative is appreciated.


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