Coles Little Shop

Coles little shop - are consumers losing the plot?

The media has reported that the move by Coles to back flip on it’s “no plastic bag” policy has actually been motivated by an increase of turnover, caused by the Coles little shop give-aways. This is in direct contrast to their earlier statements, that they had suffered a turn down in sales due to the withdrawal of free bags. Not a smart move by Coles, many will not easily forget.

What I find hard to understand, is the enormous success of the little shop give-aways. Obviously those little tokens are not of any value; I would estimate between 1 and 3 cents to manufacture. If they would be made available for free in large boxes, shoppers would most likely walk straight past them. And very soon, most will end up in a rubbish bin. But Coles have managed again to convince consumers, that these tokens have a collector’s item value. People are advertising them for as much as $ 5 each or $ 280 for a complete collection on gumtree. Facebook sites have been set up for the purpose of swapping them with membership number of 10k. Parents are driving from suburb to suburb to pick up one or two of these items. Wasting hours of time and burning fuel for something worth next to nothing! Parents say, they are collecting them for their kids, but you can clearly see, that the obsession is mostly the parents’. I am sure most of these consumers would happily forgive Coles for the plastic bad debacle, in return for a few more tokens.

When I see all this unfolding, I have growing doubts, that Australian consumers are doing well facing the real issues, that we are confronted with in our shopping habits and with environmental issues related to our consumer behaviour. Are we losing the plot?


I suspect that the cost to Coles could be cost neutral (or maybe even making money on it).

They have partnered with some of the major food/product manufacturers and I suspect that this partnership comes at a cost as it is directed targeted advertising and encourages brand recognition with children who ‘play’ with the objects. These children could use their pester power to have a household purchase the same brands or may become loyal product purchases when they have their own ability to make such purchases.

We had family members who asked us if we were collecting the plastic objects for our child or if we new of other children wanted the items…our family members were happy to receive them at Coles and pass them on. We declined their offers as we believe it is an unnecessary short term marketing gimmick which will create long term waste. We also like to purchase toys/play things which are made to last (metal/wood) or have a end of life recyclability (such as paper and card board games). We try to avoid purchasing cheap plastic items with a fine life, and especially small ones which can’t be practicably recycled (noting that the trommel at a recycling facility has a screen size about 75mmx75mm (size of ones fist) and anything smaller than this falls through the trommel screen and goes to landfill.

I also agree that the plastic objects as well as Australian’s not being able to handle bring their own bags to the supermarket is concerning. If one believes the media, Australians are supposed to be some of the ‘greenest’ on the planet but experience and behaviour indicates otherwise.


Is there a planet I can move to that doesn’t suffer from this type of insanity?


I agree, judging by past behaviour patterns, they do probably get paid to give them away and they have reported considerable increase in turnover. It’s a win - win for Coles!


@erwinhecht You’re not alone in your thoughts here. Personally, I find it pretty incredulous that there has been so much focus, scrutiny and supermarket sabre rattling/retreats over plastic bags, and at the same time the Little Shop promo seems to have captured the zeitgeist (at the checkout at least).

It led me to question, would I feel differently if the promo was tied to something with greater popular appeal - for example, Star Wars figurines? Perhaps there’s an argument that such items would have more longevity due to wider interest. However, there’s clearly enough enthusiasm about these Little Shop items as far as we can see.

It raises big questions around waste and where we should be focusing to eliminate it. While the ABS and governement indicates our overall waste footprint per capita is continuing to rise, our recycling efforts also factor into the equation. Many would agree we should cut down on waste as a priority, but where is the most important target from a cosnumer point of view - the manufacturing process? I would welcome the Community’s thoughts.

In any case, aside from the waste issue, the Coles Little Shop could well end up turning into a Little Shop of Horrors for some parents (full credit to @ScottOKeefe for that one :grin:). We received the below image via Facebook after someone’s young child decided to open one of the Little Shop items. It could be a possible choking hazhard, so love the Little Shop or loathe it, please take care with these items around young kids.



But we are supposedly all preprogrammed to be attracted to things that are small and cute. Something to do with ensuring we don’t neglect or kill our offspring who are typically small and cute.
(Thoughts of one of the regulars who has appeared on Gruen etc)

Are Coles playing fair, or should such psychologically inspired tricks be forbidden?


Yes, people that spend more than $30 at Coles to ‘collect’ the plastic future rubbish have lost the plot!
A toy retailer sells complete ‘shop’ plus ’products’ that would last longer and cost less, especially if premium prices are paid.


My wife loves these little trinkets. I suggested that maybe she could drill a hole in a couple of them and use them as earrings, but she is not quite that keen.

And Ebay listings go up to $1,000+ for the full set (presumably the higher prices have been set by optimists). I wonder how many of those selling the set actually spent large amounts over their normal grocery budget in order to 'catch ‘em all’?

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There will always be a side market. Not everyone who spends $30 will see these trinkets as valuable pizes. We don’t take the Woolies card and school offers at the checkout. Others just give them to the grand kids .

At the end of the day there will always be store counter left overs. There are also stocks around the storeroom. Will Coles manage these trinkets the same as $10 bills? Experience elsewhere suggests not. Opportunity is to acquire items or a full set on the side for free. By what ever means become available, and then sell it on eBay.

What ever the sale amount the only challenge is how to calculate the profit margin with a zero denominator?
I’d guess if you are smart enough to do that maths you probably put it to other use.

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For the benefit of anyone who lives in the Cairns region, Coles Earlville is having a Little Shop Swap from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM today.

There will be staff from the promotion company there with the full range as well as individuals being able to swap with each other.

I will be swapping a few excess ones for some that our grandkids don’t have.

The Shovel is milking it


Oh dear :smile:

Here’s a pic of few more Little Shop items we received via social media (coin for scale). Easy to see why parents need to take care around young children.



I wonder if Coles read this before their marketing team launched themselves into this one?

Anything which is under about 3-3.5 cm in size is a choking hazard. While the whole item looks borderline if the Nutella bottle cap comes off, for example, it would be less than the ACCC guideline (note: the Australian dollar coin has a diameter of 25mm and would be classed as a chocking hazard).

It does seem a bit crazy marketing these ‘toys’ at children, especially when they look like the real thing (of course a child is going to put them in their mouth thinking they are the real deal). I wonder if there was a chocking incident, if there would be a recall for example?


I know Coles has stipulated in its terms and conditions that the items are for age three and up, and hopefully parents are actively managing the risk. In the event of an incident anything is possible.


Does anyone have a video of any parent reading the T&C on the little packages prior to opening them? Or was it 'since I paid for my groceries and the checkout chick told me I had qualified for 2, by accepting them I also accept the T&C (that I have neither seen, read, nor heard about)?

They are obviously not meant for small children but the word ‘obviously’ is not obviously sufficient. If a parent cannot discern a toy is too small I doubt a tick box T&C is going to educate them sufficiently.


T&Cs - definitely not your not standard children’s bedtime reading. Agree with your comments, and I’m factoring in that we are receiving some reports of concern. We welcome further comments from consumers on the issue.


Sometimes T&Cs are more about limiting liability rather than recommendations for practicable application.

The T&Cs state…2.15 The Collectables are for those aged 3 years and older. Adult supervision is advised for those aged 0-3 years of age due to the risk of choking.

I agree with @PhilT, how many parents would have taken time to read the fully understand the T&Cs before receiving the Little Shop items instore. I am sure that the checkout staff would not be disclosing the T&Cs and it would be up to the customer to acquire them.

We haven’t joined the Little Shop item shopper so don’t know if the T&Cs are on the packaging…I suspect they aren’t as the font point size would make it unreadable if all were included.

Is the website referenced?

Does it clearly state adult supervision for children under 3 on the packaging?

If one has had a <3 year old, it would take less than a couple of seconds for a toddler to place in the mouth and try and swallow. Adult supervision may not be adequate unless the adult is the only one to hold the item (restricting the toddlers ability to hold and place in the mouth). Seems a bit of a ridiculous clause and is definitely about trying to limit liability.


Whilst Coles has been subjected to criticism over their Coles Little Shop promotion, it certainly appears that their strategy has been nothing short of brilliant.

They have literally taken the wind out of Woollies sales, with Woollies suffering a downturn in turnover thanks to the Coles Little Shop effect.


No denying the promotion has been popular for some, the full sets are going on eBay for up to $2000. Thanks for sharing the article @Fred123 :+1:

An interesting perspective on the consumer psychology involved in the issues:


After creating a hugely successful promotion with their Coles Little Shop, Coles have no storage folders available and the promotion ends in a fortnight.

My wife’s sister wants one for her grandkids and could not get one in Mareeba. We tried all 5 Coles stores between Edmonton and Cairns and there were none available.

The Coles staff at Mt Sheridan told my wife that they only received 2 cartons recently which contain 6 folders each, and they told me that Coles grossly underestimated how popular the promotion would be.

They have managed not to run out of the toys as each one represents $30 of sales but the $4 folders don’t seem important enough to maintain stocks of.

However, they will no doubt upset a great many customers who have collected the toys but cannot buy the storage folders if they fail to rectify the situation.

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