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Another million-dollar idea?

22 January 2019

Supermarkets have stopped giving away "free" single-use plastic bags.

And what a right-royal pain in the backside that is.

How many times have you walked through those automatic doors only to realise that you've left your "re-usable" bags at home or in the car and you can't be bothered going back to get them?

Of course you'll be able to buy even *more* re-usable bags at the checkout -- but you know they'll simply end up being left behind again next time you go shopping so is it really worth it?

What's more, you've now had to add "kitchen-tidy" bags to your shopping list because you've finally used all the old single-use bags you'd been storing after unpacking the groceries at home.

And this is preserving the environment how?

Well after chatting with a lovely old lady outside the local supermarket last week I realised that there is a huge business opportunity for someone here.

This delightful old lady had done just what I described at the start of today's column -- she'd rocked up to the supermarket door, only to realise she had left her re-usable bags at home. We chatted and agreed that as a result of the abolition of the "free" shopping bags, we were actually using *more* plastic than before and it was adding to our monthly budgets.

Then the penny dropped!

There are a lot of people who despise having to purchase plastic now -- either in the form of bin-liners or re-usable shopping bags. Most folk, given the choice, will opt for the environmentally friendly option, if one is provided.

Here's what I reckon someone ought to be doing.

Some switched-on entrepreneur needs to go out and find a source of stout brown paper bags with strong handles. Bags that can carry the Sunday roast or a 6 litres of your favourite soft-drink without ripping. Bags that are made from un-dyed wood pulp, the production of which doesn't litter the environment with dioxins or other toxic waste.

If these bags can be sourced in bulk for under 10c each then there's a fortune to be made.

How will that work?


Step one... create a brand. Create a powerful, eco-centric brand that makes people feel proud to be seen with these bags.

Step two.. get these bags emblazoned with a memorable logo and the words "Eco-Warrior" or something similar (in green of course) that shouts out to everyone around you that you are doing your bit to save the planet (one bag at a time).

Step three ... get yourself a trailer or pop-up shop and park it outside the local supermarket, albeit not on their property because they'll get really pissed off at you if you do).

Step four... sell these bags to all those people who have forgotten to bring their own re-usable bags for $0.39 each. I have a feeling that sales would be brisk. Not only would the "oops I forgot my bags" crowd save a bit of dosh but the anti-plastic brigade would have a really good, environmentally friendly alternative available to them.

Step five... franchise the whole thing so that *every* NZ supermarket had one of these pop-up bag shops parked on the road outside their car-park.

Step six... sell your shares in the franchiser company (before capital gains tax comes in) and retire to the island of your choice.

Okay, I make it sound too simple but I believe there's real potential in this idea because:

  1. it provides a much-needed service
  2. it plays on the desire to protect the environment
  3. it is anti-plastic
  4. the bags are re-usable but will have a limited life (resales!)
  5. there are multiple revenue sources (advertising etc)
  6. the real profit (capital gain) is tax-free

Of course there are risks. The supermarkets would likely try to "out-eco" you by simply offering their own paper bags and they'd be able to buy at a lower price due to higher volumes.

However, the key to the success of this idea is the creation of that "Eco Warrior" or similar branding. Come up with a kick-arse name and logo and *that* is where the value will be. Sure, Countdown and New World could sell their own brown paper bags but they wouldn't have the right to use your high-profile and desirable branding.

Think about it... you can buy a perfectly good set of sneakers for under $50 but a great many people still prefer to spend four or five times that much just to have "The Nike Swoosh" on their footwear. It's all down to *branding* and who wouldn't want to be seen to be overtly saving the planet as they stride across the Supermarket carpark?

So, do you think we'll see "Eco Warrior" re-usable super-tough paper grocery bags being promoted, marketed and used any time soon?

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