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The reason why shoppers are sick of supermarket collectables

The feverish excitement of shoppers which followed the release of Woolworths’ Lion King Ooshie collectables has paled in comparison to the response seen this week over the Lion King 2 range.

On Wednesday, the supermarket giant told Yahoo News Australia that customers from this week could purchase a new set of 24 Lion King Ooshies, known as ‘Series 2’.

From early on though, the hype around this collectables range appeared lacklustre – not just because the roll-out had hit hiccups with some stores reportedly not even stocking the new Ooshies, but because the manner in which the new range could be obtained by customers.

While the original Lion King Ooshies were given out for every $30 purchase at Woolworths, the new range needs to be purchased directly.

It’s this new mode of obtaining the Series 2 Ooshies which could be partly responsible for them not stirring up the same degree of excitement as the earlier versions.

Pictures is a set of Woolworths' Series 2 Lion King Ooshies collectables range.
Woolworths announced a Lion King Ooshies Series 2 range earlier this week. Source: Woolworths

When Yahoo News Australia readers were asked in an online poll if they were planning to purchase the new Ooshies, the overwhelming response suggested shoppers were suffering from collectables fatigue.

At the time of publication, over 80 per cent of the 1400 readers who had responded to an informal survey embedded in an earlier article, voted that Ooshies “were just a fad” and they wouldn’t be purchasing the the new range.

Retail expert and marketing professor at the Queensland University of Technology, Gary Mortimer, isn’t surprised.

“What we’ve seen over the last 18 months is [Coles] Little Shop 2, we’ve seen Disney Letters from Woolworths, we’ve seen Christmas pop-ups from Woolworths, we’ve had Ooshies from Woolworths – now this is the second range of Ooshies – so even consumers are getting probably tired of that,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

In addition to the fatigue Professor Mortimer expected to be shoppers’ response to another collectables product from the supermarket chains, was the divorce the new range had had from the way they were obtained.

The older Lion King Ooshies and other collectables were “gathered” or “given away” as opposed to being bought like any other supermarket item.

Plus it was a complete “lucky dip” of what type of collectable shoppers ended up with.

Pictured is a set of Woolworths' Lion King Ooshies collectables.
Shoppers are tired of collectables after Lion King Ooshies were launched earlier this year, an expert claims. Source: Woolworths

“I think one of the factors that made collectables interesting and a successful marketing strategy was the element of surprise. So whether it was an Ooshie or it was a Little Shop, you never really knew what was inside the little plastic bag or the paper bag,” Professor Mortimer said.

“It was a bit like a Kinder Surprise, you never knew what was inside so that encouraged consumers to go back and keep buying and keep collecting to see if they could get the full set.

“When you move away from that element of surprise to something that you can just purchase, it simply becomes another plastic toy you can buy at the supermarket.”

Death of the Ooshie?

Before the Series 2 Ooshie range came out this week though, Professor Mortimer thought the days of the plastic supermarket collectables were numbered as Woolworths and Coles came under increasing scrutiny for producing non-recyclable wastage.

Both stores caused controversy earlier this year when they put out the items only shortly after enacting a nationwide single-use plastic bag ban.

Professor Mortimer’s strong suspicion for the encroaching death of the collectable was reflected by Coles’ annual report for 2019.

In September Coles CEO Steven Cain indicated that in the future the supermarket giant would no longer be releasing collectables.

“There was certainly an environmental element associated with the negative criticisms of collectables,” the marketing expert said.

“When they were first launched in Australia, supermarkets had banned the single-use plastic bag [and] then they [Coles] rolled out Little Shop one.”

What was the appeal of collectables in the first place?

One element of the collectables and Ooshie craze that had taken him by surprise he said was the huge appeal they had had among adults.

“I think the Ooshie was initially targeted at children and it was timed to be released the same time as the Lion King movie so it was a little bit surprising that adults found it novel and interesting to collect,” he said.

Although, he added, on the whole, adults had been far more drawn to the Coles Little Shop range than the Ooshies.

“Clearly [the Little Shop collectables] resonated with adults. You’d have a mini Vegemite or a mini product on your desk,” he said.

The big winner from the Little Shop range was undoubtedly the companies who paid to have items featured in the series.

White King alone had sales increase by 50 per cent just by having their bottles of bleach feature as minis in the campaign.

Regardless of the commercial success of both stores’ collectables campaigns, Professor Mortimer saw the Lion King Ooshie Series 2 as a misfire by Woolworths.

When they first came out this year and they coincided with the release of the live-action Lion King film, the Oooshies rode the wave of popularity surrounding the film. To months later release another range connected to the film seemed odd and a strange marketing decision.

“The movie is gone now and kids have moved on. Kids and consumers’ memories are pretty short,” he explained.

“I’m a little surprised that Woolworths has run an Ooshies 2 program. It seemed to be very different from their original successful program that leveraged that element of surprise and collecting.

“It brought communities together. It brought people together. There was group phenomenon happening where you could share and swap ... and that created community around the brand.

“People felt a part of that group [of collectors].”

That magic and sense of interaction and community that surrounded the original Ooshies was scrapped when consumers could instead “just go and buy a set” of the Ooshies 2 range.

“So just simply going in and buying something [instead of obtaining it by ‘chance’ or swapping it with another collector], you tend to lose the impact,” he said.

When releasing the Ooshies, Woolworths said it would continue to be a popular item for Christmas stockings this year.

A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia every store in Australia had received the new release this week but that limited stock would only be available while it lasts.

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