Supermarkets’ desperate bag ploy
WHO would have thought removing plastic bags from registers, something the people of South Australia have coped with for almost a decade, could prove such a struggle?
But in an attempt to win over freshly bagless customers in the eastern states, Coles and Woolworths have announced they will effectively pay shoppers to bring their own plastic.
It comes as a new report has said customers are so lost without bags, it is beginning to hit the retailers' bottom line as people buy less.
On Friday, Coles and Woolies announced customers who bring their own bags when shopping will earn bonus points on their loyalty cards.
Coles jumped first, offering shoppers a bonus of 30 Flybuys points on every shop until next Tuesday if they didn't buy reusable bags in store.
Woolworths swiftly followed suit, albeit with a slightly different offer for its 11 million Rewards members. Customers will earn two points for every bag they bring with them to use in store until the end of the year.
The store said a customer doing a small basket shop with two of their own bags would receive four points, while someone doing a larger weekly family shop with 10 of their own reusable bags will earn 20 points.
Coles' Operations Director Paul Bradshaw said the company was "grateful" customers were bringing their own bags.
"Offering Flybuys points is a small way of saying thank you to our customers for making the switch to reusable bags."
Coles said the extra points will automatically kick in if a customer uses their Flybuys cards but doesn't buy any bags.
Sneaky customers could game the system at Coles by, for instance, purchasing bags in one transaction and then in a transaction immediately afterwards buying a single product but not scanning a bag thereby pocketing the points. However, the retailer said they suspected only a small number of customers would go through the hassle.
Woolies' more longwinded system will see staff counting customers bags and then manually feeding this information into check-outs.
But there could be another reason behind the point system's largesse - sales are down since the bag ban came into place.
According to a report by investment bank Citi, the lack of plastic bags has had an effect on "top up" shoppers - the ones that come in to buy a few items to fill up the fridge.
If they forget to bring bags, many customers are not buying the reusable option at the register. Instead, they are buying only what they can hold in their hands and that's a lot less than what can fit in a bag.
"Woolworths and Coles are experiencing sales weakness following the elimination of single-use shopping bags, a significant change which has not been well executed by either retailer,'' Citi retail analyst Bryan Raymond told The Australian.
The supermarkets' haven't confirmed if they have indeed suffered a sales downturn since plastic bags were removed. However, a separate analysis has suggested Coles and Woolworths could actually bank a $71 million boost through the sale of plastic bags.
Bonus loyalty points is the latest brainwave by the supermarkets to win over customers who have not adapted well to the removal of single use plastic bags.
Both Coles and Woolworths have offered customers free reusable bags for a limited period to smooth the transition for shoppers. While Coles has said it will redesign check-outs to make it easier to attach a range of green bags.