Most retailers try to encourage repeat custom as much as possible – in a way, you’re actively discouraging it. Tell us about how that dynamic works at Buy Me Once.
We believe people are being forced into buying the same things again and again because manufacturers nowadays are making increasingly shoddy products. Some are actively ensuring that their products are breakable. Others are just failing to put the necessary effort and investment in to make their products stand the test of time. This is a short-sighted and environmentally irresponsible attitude.
Eventually, we want consumers to start shifting towards a more circular economy where manufacturers are responsible for the longevity of their products. For example, if you leased a washing machine from a manufacturer instead of buying it, the manufacturer wouldn’t want to keep coming to fix it, so they would have an incentive to make it sturdier.
If we still want an environment in the future, we are going to have to shift the way our economy works and moving away from our “throwaway culture” is an important part of that.
If people were to start buying products that didn’t break and therefore didn’t come back for repeat custom, I would be the first person to be thrilled about this. This is a social movement before a money-making enterprise. There are seven billion people in the world however, so I can’t see us running out of customers that quickly.
Can you tell us about some of your experiences with less long-lasting products before Buy Me Once - is there a personal story behind the site?
The site was inspired by a beautiful pale blue Le Creuset cooking pot. Guaranteed for life, it just feels like an heirloom. I wanted all of the things in my life to feel like this pot - beautiful, permanent, trustworthy, with real quality and value.
We also had two electric kettles break on us with a couple of months and when I looked for a new one I just couldn’t find a brand I trusted. Looking at the reviews and statistics it was clear that finding an electric kettle that would last a decade is a thing of the past. I ended up buying a stovetop kettle. It takes a while to boil, but it makes a cute whistling sound when it does and it will probably last me into my old age.
Buy Me Once seems to be getting a lot of very passionate attention across international media. Why do you think it’s attracted this kind of response?
The response was above and beyond what I could have hoped for. It has been huge and passionate and amazing. I think that vast numbers of people all around the world have had the sense that things aren’t right and haven’t been right for a while. And maybe they couldn’t quite put their finger on why it isn’t right. I just came along and pointed out the obvious, buying things that last will save us money and the environment.
Is there a specific set of criteria you apply to brands before inclusion on Buy Me Once? Can you share it with us?
· Is this product made in a way or out of certain materials that makes it more durable than its competitors?
Do the reviews of the products confirm durability compared with other products?
· Could we say this product is “best in show” in terms of durability compared with others?
· If possible, is it made of sustainable materials?
· What aftercare do the manufactures offer? Priority is given to those with a “no quibble” or full lifetime warranty.
· Is this product “classic” or does its look or function mean that it might go out of style quickly?
I see the “buy” button on your site leads through to the manufacturer’s website or to Amazon rather than your own sales platform. Can you explain how these partnerships work?
At the moment, we do not sell anything directly. We are not big enough to have our own warehouses or distribution networks (we are hoping to do this in the future). Therefore for the moment we see ourselves as offering our research findings to people who are looking for the longest lasting products and then passing them onto a site where they can buy it easily. This might be a manufacturer’s own website, or another retailer such as Sears or John Lewis, or Amazon.
If a customer goes on from our website and buys a product from Sears or Amazon, we get a small commission (usually six to eight percent). However we only promote the products we believe in and we are never paid to put anything onto the site.
What’s your most popular item? Why do you think it’s in such demand?
Our most popular categories are clothing and kitchenware. The white t-shirts, Patagonia leggings and Darn Tough socks and the Sloggi underwear are going down really well, as well as items like the wine glasses and Le Creuset non-stick pans.
Have you had any pushback regarding Buy Me Once’s price points? The NZD$75 t-shirts, for example, might be a bit of a shock for customers used to fast fashion.
We understand that these products are more expensive than average products and this does come up when people discuss our products sometimes. However I think it’s more useful to look at product in terms of price per use. If an average t-shirt lasts five years or so and costs £10, that costs £2 per year and you have a t-shirt that can last 30 years then that’s just over a pound per year.
We are campaigning for manufacturers to have to put how long they expect their products last on their packaging (backed up by a full warranty) so that shoppers can very easily make these choices. This will also mean that manufacturers can start competing in terms of quality and longevity and once they start doing that, prices will naturally come down.
Are you seeking to expand the range further? What kind of products are you looking for?
Yes, the possibilities are endless. We want to offer the “best in show” for longevity for every non-consumable product category. Including appliances, cars, sports goods, baby goods and even building materials.
And finally, any thoughts on expanding into Australasia?
The response from Australasia has been fantastic with so many people calling for us to expand there. Unfortunately, there is no easy “add Australia and New Zealand” button we can press. It takes weeks of research and site building, photo gathering, copywriting and tea drinking to get another country on the site. We are up for the challenge though and it is a priority for us!