Evolving from single use products to reusable ones

01Jul10

Let’s say you run a company that makes single use products, like plastic bags or styrofoam cups. It’s no secret that consumers and businesses alike are reducing their usage of these disposable items, and replacing them with reusable alternatives. With this trend in mind, do you keep producing only the disposable products, or do you expand your product line to include reusable versions as well?

The answer here seems obvious: if customers are gradually shifting their buying habits towards durable, reusable products, then the companies making the disposable versions should find a way to meet this demand. Even if they have to resell somebody else’s products at first, at least they’re maintaining some continuity in the customer relationship. There’s always time to ramp up in-house production later, if actual sales volume dictates that existing customers are willing to buy up the new, more durable versions.

Yet despite this logic, it’s hard to think of any disposable product companies that have successfully adapted to the reusable products trend. For instance, look at the reusable shopping bags that virtually every store sells today. Do you think the folks who make the plastic and paper bags for those stores also manufacture the new fabric ones? I doubt it. Granted, there can be a big difference in your business model when you start selling things that cost $1 each instead of 3 cents. But if your customers are shifting their purchasing habits towards reusable products, you’ll either need to start offering the options they want, or watch sales gradually erode as they find those products elsewhere.



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