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The Retail Hotlist: 'Hottest subscription model' goes to Smartass

  • News
  • August 9, 2018
  • Caitlin Salter
The Retail Hotlist: 'Hottest subscription model' goes to Smartass
Nominees: Bark Bag, Toothcrush, WineFriend, Smartass, Necesse, Eat My Lunch, Freshcatch, No Ugly, I Am co., My Food Bag.

People’s choice
No Ugly Wellness Tonic

Judges’ choice
Smartass

True to its name, Smartass is a smart alternative to standard bogroll. Its toilet paper subscription model offers recommendations for an amount based on how many people are in the customer’s household and allows cancellation anytime.

Smartass donates 10 percent of its profits to Million Meters, which helps Kiwi companies plant native trees. The company’s ethos leans heavily on reducing the environmental impact toilet paper creates. The paper is created using a combination of sugarcane (bagasse) a waste product and bamboo.

The Smartass subscription model is straightforward and effective, which is exactly what most people want their toilet paper to be. Customers receive a carton of 48 rolls every six to eight weeks depending on how many people are in their household or office - it’s that simple. And so far the figures are working well, most people get a new carton when they’re down to their last few rolls.

Tony Small, the founder and managing director of Innocent Packaging which produces the Smartass products, says so far the feedback has been really positive.

“People like that they can subscribe to it. A lot of us shop online now, especially for groceries. Being able to order toilet paper at home is one less thing to worry about.”

Smartass was born from a conversation with a potential Innocent Packaging customer who mentioned the packaging industry was already quite flooded, and Innocent should consider offering sustainable toiletries (they have since become one of the company’s most valued customers).

The Smartass products were rigorously tested to find an outcome that was familiar to customers while being tree free. Bamboo is fast growing and can be grown year-on-year with few detrimental effects to soil quality.

Launched 18 months ago, it took a while to break into the market, but Smartass has grown rapidly in the last year. In April 2017, 53 cartons of Smartass toilet paper were sold, compared to 836 cartons in April 2018.

They have also recently expanded their product range into tissues, hand towels and four packs of toilet paper, which can be found in selected New Worlds and Huckleberry stores throughout the country. Smalls says while they’re currently focused on the New Zealand market, they do have plans to expand the range further and may look at overseas options.

Smartass has also made a name for itself by donating 10 percent of profits to Million Metres. The charity helps communities plant native trees to improve water quality in rivers and enhance freshwater biodiversity. Initially Smartass donated a tree for every carton sold, but the model has had to adapt to the share of the profits since the move from exclusively direct sales to supermarkets.

“[Balancing the charitable side] is challenging. The benefit for us is that we have been running Innocent for longer than Smartass and it’s a successful company, which made it possible to run Smartass at a loss when we started to ensure we were giving back.

“The biggest thing for us is partnering with a charity we really admire because then it doesn’t feel tough to make it work.”

Judges’ comments from Scott Fisher: Subscription models are increasingly being used in the digital and consumer conscious age and Smartass are shaking up the toilet roll category.  The judges were impressed that the business’s bottom line does not come at the expense of the consumer’s or the environment’s bottom line.  A special mention to the well-established Eat My Lunch.

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 756 June/July 2018

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